PM: Govt won’t be distracted
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has sent a strong message to the Opposition that his Government will not be distracted by the controversy involving Speaker of the House Michael Carrington.
At the same time, he has challenged the grounds on which the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) has questioned the morality of Carrington who was recently embroiled in a legal dispute with a former client.
More than a week ago, John Griffiths – whom Queen’s Counsel Carrington had represented – was paid the $200,000 that was outstanding from the sale of one of Griffiths’ deceased aunt’s properties.
Opposition members have refused to attend sittings over which Carrington presides until Parliament’s Committee of Privileges, to which the matter has been referred, gives a ruling.
Stuart said while there was nothing wrong with pursuing high moral standards, BLP members could not hold themselves up as “moral exemplars”.
He pointed to court documents in which Opposition members accused some of their own colleagues of questionable behavior.
“Where do these people get their moral authority from to be around Barbados parading now about who has high moral principles and who don’t have any?” the Prime Minister queried at a Democratic Labour Party meeting at the Bay Primary School last night.
Describing the accusations against the House Speaker as malicious propaganda, he insisted that Carrington merely had a dispute with a client as some attorneys – including him when he was in private practice – often do.
“Michael Carrington is an honourable man. There’s no criminal conviction anywhere against him. He’s an excellent Speaker of the House of Assembly, but like every lawyer at some stage he just had a difference with a client,” Stuart said.
He recalled an incident involving former clerk of the House of Assembly George Brancker, an attorney, who had to defend himself in court against two clients after they complained to the Disciplinary Committee of the Bar Association.
“Nobody said at that time, because it would have been absurd as it is now, that because George had difficulties with clients of his that he was bringing Parliament into disrepute, because it was accepted that these are the perils you face when you are rendering service of any kind to clients,” Stuart pointed out.
The country’s leader further accused the BLP of refusing to accept the results of the last two general elections and charged that the Opposition was trying to destabilize the country and the Government.
He claimed that a similar “technique” was used to ruin the reputation of late Minister of Health Branford Taitt who was at the centre of a commission of inquiry into the St Joseph Hospital. Though Taitt was exonerated, the Prime Minister said the damage had already been done.
“That is what the whole thing with Speaker Carrington is about. They don’t believe they’re on solid ground. They want to do damage and, therefore, I just want you members of the Democratic Labour Party not to get distracted by that kind of foolishness,” he said.
The Prime Minister also made no apologies for his decision to advise the House Speaker to get an attorney to deal with the matter, stating Carrington could have lost perspective on the issue if he did not get legal advice.
“That then became an issue for some people in Barbados who said that instead of firing the man, I advised the man to get a lawyer. But I’d advise anybody . . . who has to go into a court to get a lawyer. If you go into a court without a lawyer, you are at a disadvantage. And, in any event, there’s a maxim known among lawyers – any lawyer who tries to represent himself has a fool for a client,” the Prime Minister added.