by Latoya Burnham

THREE LASHLEYS SAY GOODBYE: Hamilton, Stephen and Michael at the end of today’s sitting.
THREE LASHLEYS SAY GOODBYE: Hamilton, Stephen and Michael at the end of today’s sitting.

The curtain descended today on the final term of Democratic Labour Party politician and MP for St. Michael South East, Hamilton Lashley as Parliament was prorogued and the date of the highly anticipated general election announced by the Government Information Service this evening.

Lashley, who unlike his Opposition Barbados Labour Party colleagues, Rawle Eastmond of St. James North and Christ Church West representative Dr. William Duguid, got to say his final farewell in the last sitting of the House before it ended today shortly after 3 p.m., and made clear that his social work, however, had not come to an end.

In fact, in his final address to his fellow parliamentarians and the island, the MP, who has been in politics for nearly 19 years, said he firmly planned to set up a foundation to continue the work he would have started as a politician.

“I also want to say that you make a lot of sacrifices in politics and when I leave politics I am going to establish the Hamilton Lashley Human Development Foundation, working towards setting a pathway for the elderly and the young folks in Barbados,” he promised.

His announcement came shortly after he had addressed one of what he called his regrets in politics as Minister of Social Transformation.

This had to do with the Auditor General report which mentioned the hiring of vagrants at the Urban Development Corporation, which was within his ministry.

Lashley said contrary to what people thought there was only one instance of this taking place, and he made it clear that the individual referred to, who eventually died of prostate cancer, was not a vagrant but “a very skilled artisan” who did not want to “burden his family with a funeral”.

“So what he did was try to get a contract for work to pay for his own funeral. You know when we offered him the contract, before he even started it, he died of prostate cancer. The only body who knew what he was suffering from outside of his family was myself. So when a conclusion was drawn, that is what this party is always saying, it is more than an economy, it is more about people and people’s feelings,” Lashley stated.

Tracing his history as a politician, he recalled entering the political arena under the guidance of the late former Prime Minister David Thompson in 1994 when he was first elected to the Lower House on a DLP ticket.

Lashley crossed the floor to join the then ruling Barbados Labour Party four years later when he was appointed Minister of Social Transformation. After a very brief stint as an Independent, he crossed the floor again, returning to a newly elected DLP, which won the January 2008 general elections.

The long-standing community leader from The Pine, St. Michael thanked all those who had aided him in some way between 1994 and now, even as he offered a few words of advice for aspiring representatives.

“I would first … want to say to all those young aspiring politicians who want to come into this chamber that I would want to recommend to them, that if and when they come to this chamber, their foremost thoughts, their foremost efforts, their whole life, their whole being from the time you have entered this honourable chamber, is one of total sacrifice — sometimes at the detriment of your best friends, your family, and also sometimes at the detriment of your own self.”

This, Lashley argued, was “true representation”.

“There are some people who believe that entering politics is a glamourised event and that they are on the silver screen, that they will be seen regularly on the television and in the newspaper. All of that is true but moreso is when, and I am sure all honourable members of this chamber will tell you that at night when they get home and when the lights and the cameras have turned off, there is a lonely, lonely, lonely road that you have to go through.

“You have to make decisions for people that you make promises to, you have really to deal with people’s problems and I am saying to anyone that wants to enter this honourable chamber that the first option is to put the people first. The people of this country come first and I am saying that because the Democratic Labour Party, where I first started out on this journey, always put people first and particularly those marginalised persons, the poor people of this society first,” he stated.

Lashley also recalled when he was appointed Minister of Social Transformation by the then Prime Minister Owen Arthur, terming the moment “one of the treasures I have in my heart”.

The outgoing MP also had some parting words for his DLP comrades: “On this side Sir, I want to compliment this party for their courage at this particular time, under extreme fire and also championing the cause for the poor, the disabled and the marginalised groupings in Barbados.

“That is, having sat as an Independent member, is one of the policy trademarks and hallmarks that brought me back to the Democratic Labour Party. “To the members who will be contesting the elections coming up and I am sure all right-thinking Barbadians will return these honourable members of this solemn soil back to this honourable chamber.

“I want to say to them, when you walk though a storm, hold your head up high and don’t be afraid of the dark, cause at the end of that storm is a golden light and I want to tell you to walk on with hope in your heart and you will never ever walk alone, because God will be there by your side and the people of Barbados will support you in everything that you do.”

Lashley, more affectionately called “Hammie La” for most of his political life, said as he rose this morning and realised today was his last day in the House of Assembly, it brought tears to his eyes, “but everything must come to an end sometime. I’m sorry to go but I know I have to go.” latoyaburnham@barbadostoday.bb

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