In an exclusive interview with OBSERVER Media, the 74-year-old former prime minister said, “I was merely dehydrated and after I was liquefied I was better. My doctor came and looked at me and said I’m fine.”
The former two-term prime minister was on a lunch break when he fell ill around 2:30 pm Sunday. The break followed several hours of discussions among his colleagues regarding the public’s perception of the party and seeming disunity.
“It was hot and I became dehydrated because I had also spent about five hours in the retreat when I really shouldn’t have done so,” the ALP leader said.
But one party member said the day “was not hotter than the norm.”
The source said there were at least three air conditioning fans inside the room where the retreat was held at the Sand Piper Hotel. He said Bird appeared unwell and when asked whether he was ill the ALP leader appeared dazed and did not reply.
Several individuals reportedly went to his aid and struggled to lift him to the bathroom where he was fanned and revived. Bird’s doctor attended to him and he then went home for the rest of the day.
The occurrence is not unusual as over the past two years Bird has fallen ill in court sessions, in Parliament and, on one occasion, at a funeral.
Following the latest incident, several people, including senior party members reiterated – albeit off the record – it is time for him to step down.
One member said, “Mr Bird has made enough contributions and he ought to step aside now when he still has dignity. It is clear he is not healthy enough to endure the rigours of the life of a politician and parliamentarian.”
The ALP supporter continued that she was saddened that some people are actually encouraging MP Bird to stay on.
“Anyone telling him to stay does not care. He is bringing disrespect to himself and is tainting the very legacy he wants people to remember – his 10-year leadership as Antigua’s second prime minister,” she added.
Political analyst Peter Wickham has gone on record once again, stating it is time for Bird to hang up his hat – a stance he has held since Bird’s health appeared to start impacting his work.
And 81-year-old Sir Thomas Hilbourne Frank agreed with Wickham.
The former leader of the Barbuda People’s Movement told OBSERVER Media, “I think he has something up his sleeve he wants to finish but enough is enough. People can have enough and should have the sense to know when to withdraw.”
Reacting to those calls for him to step down, Bird said, “That’s their opinion if they want me to step down because I was dehydrated. Anyone could become dehydrated.”
Bird said he will leave his fate in the hands “of the people” at the ALP’s November 25 convention at which time all constituency representatives and leaders will be selected.
In the meantime he said he plans to call for the resumption of the retreat at a date to be decided among party chiefs.