opposition parliamentarians criticised for boycott of house

The nine Opposition Barbados Labour Party parliamentarians were mocked and criticised in their absence from the House of Assembly today, with Government spokesmen urging that their pay be docked, and calling them amateurs in denial.

Opposition Leader Owen Arthur and his colleagues followed through on a promise to stay away from the House this morning when sittings convened, in a show of protest over Prime Minister Freundel Stuart’s decision not to call elections after five years of Democratic Labour Party governance.

The DLP was voted into government on this day in 2008.

While debating a $15.7 million supplementary resolution to pay the diesel rebate for a number of sectors, the majority of Government MPs who spoke took note of the empty Opposition seats and criticised their usual occupants.

Deputy Speaker of the House Kenny Best said in their “thirst” for power and quest to unseat the DLP, the BLP’s representatives had abandoned work and should therefore be penalised financially.

“The people of Barbados will show them because they failed to turn up for work, they are drawing money and not coming to work and I believe that a day’s pay should be deducted because you refused to turn up for work,” he said.

‘Refuse to turn up for work’

“Tuesday is usually set as the time for we to discuss the people’s business of Barbados and you take upon yourself to refuse to turn up to work and telling people that you should be paid. There should be a way that their pay should be deducted.”

The St. Michael East MP said the Opposition’s action was “a clear indication that they do not understand the principles of law”, and that Stuart was acting within the bounds of the Constitution and the Electoral and Boundaries Commission Act “as to how things operate in relation to elections”.

“So this fallacy about your time is up and call elections — their time was up since 2007 and it will remain up after the honourable member for St. Michael South decides that it is time for the people of Barbados to chose,” he said.

Minister of Industry, Small Business and Rural Development, Denis Kellman, also had his say on the matter, calling the BLP amateurs trying to use the same method the DLP used in 2007 to get the then Arthur-led government to call elections.

Saying Government would be foolish to “die” on what was its fifth birthday, the St. Lucy MP said the BLP had blundered.

“There are some amateurs and the worst person that you can put to speak for you is a person that is not a politician. It is obvious the honourable member for St. Peter could not have spoken about not attending Parliament because that would have been the norm, but he put the other person that can only smile and joke about everything and the next biggest joke we (have) is when the honorable member for St. Joseph saw the Democratic Labour Party doing something and attempt to do it too,” Kellman said.

‘They are amateurs’

“I told you already they are amateurs and now come to play a trick on us, no trick you call for something and when you get it I hope you can deal with it.”

Minister of the Environment and Drainage, Dr. Denis Lowe, said Parliament’s business would go on with or without the Opposition and that its representatives were not missed.

“The Government carries on the business of Parliament because this is where the people sent us to do their business, but you know when you are bereft of ideas and you begin to repeat yourself sometimes it’s best to stay silent,” the Christ Church East MP said.

“And in this case they have a wonderful mix of silence and absence and that’s quite fine with us, we have no difficulty with that at all.”

Minister of State in the Ministry of Housing and Lands, Patrick Todd, said today’s boycott confirmed that the BLP was in denial.

“The Barbados Labour Party throughout its term in Opposition has demonstrated … symptoms of denial. They have not come to terms with the fact that the people of Barbados have rejected them and swept them out of office. They try to behave as though they are still the government,” he claimed.

“So their current actions do not surprise this honourable member because here it is now this Barbados Labour Party Opposition is trying to tell the country when the elections should be called, that is the role of the Prime Minister constitutionally, and a responsible Opposition would respect the authority of the Prime Minister in that regard.

“And so we will proceed to do the business of the people who elected us here until the Prime Minister in his wisdom rings the bell,” the City MP added.

In giving the rationale for the BLP boycott announced last weekend, Deputy Opposition Leader Dale Marshall said Stuart had broken the “political tradition” where a general election was called “well within the five-year period” for which a government was elected. (SC)

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