by Donna Sealy
Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite last night apologised to women for what he called an insult stemming from recent comments made by chairman of the Men’s Educational Support Association, Ralph Boyce, about DNA tests being done for all children at birth.
But this afternoon, Boyce hit back saying that the AG’s comments were unfair. Furthermore, he was unwavering in his position.
It was near the end of his address at the Soroptimist International of Jamestown’s annual general meeting that Brathwaite said he was disassociating himself from Boyce’s call for the tests to be done.
He told the members that he had “read or heard in our newspapers recently … about some character suggesting that we should have DNA tests for every child. I didn’t read that right?”
“I want to say, and if nothing else, to the Press you can take this apology to the women of Barbados on my behalf, because on their behalf I’m insulted that someone who considers himself to be a serious senior in this country, if the report is correct, is suggesting that we have a DNA test at the birth of each child in this country.
“I was very annoyed about it and if I was the kind of person to pick up the telephone and call the call-in programme I would have done it. I was really that annoyed… I felt it was very, very unfortunate the someone could make such a comment … in our country,” said Brathwaite.
But Boyce is having none of it.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY this evening, the MESA chairman said that not only was he “disappointed” with Brathwaite’s comments, but they were “unfair” and he was not insulting women.
“There are so many cases where people are in conflict, they’re not sure what’s going on. It would be good at birth to have something definitive about the DNA, in terms of paternity of the child. I gather there are other things beside the paternity that relate to the health of the child and the likelihood of the person becoming ill with particular diseases.
“It’s interesting that he should take that stand because a lot of people are saying that they really need to establish definitively. It’s not insulting women or anything… There were very many cases where, in the absence of the DNA, you don’t know the exact status of the child. I was talking about the children now being born not those who already exist. If at birth the DNA [test] was done, there would be no doubt later,” said Boyce.
He took umbrage with the Attorney General’s use of the word “character” because he [Boyce] was well known, and “senior” and said that people had the right to express their opinion and this “was the beginning of dictatorships where people feel that people must not have a view at particular times”.
“People have right to make a comment and make suggestions. People are talking about the costs … we need to look at bringing the cost down. It is totally unfair, and he should have commented on that, for men to have to pay the full cost of the tests when it is proven that [they] are not the fathers …,” Boyce said.
He said that women should pay part of the cost if the results the DNA, or DeoxyriboNucleic Acid, test showed that particular man did not father the child.
“I’m disappointed with his comments. As a person heading a government department [he should] respect the views of the people and at least find out what was the basis of the comments. There are a lot of cases in Barbados where people are saddled with jackets and waist coats.
“You have in one extreme case where a brother and sister got married and had children and this was the result of women saddling men with children that are not theirs. That’s the reality in Barbados,” the MESA chairman said.
The Soroptimists’ meeting was held at the Hildegarde Weekes Activity Centre in Eden Lodge, St. Michael and Brathwaite was the featured speaker.
Earlier this month, in another section of the press, Boyce was reported as saying that the tests should be administered “at birth so that later on, no one can say that child is not theirs. You don’t want 10 or 15 years later when problems occur or there are issues with family bonding and so on, someone then has to suddenly find out a child is not theirs”.