BLP blocks constitutional amendment
The Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) Tuesday blocked a constitutional amendment that would have extended the retirement age of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Auditor General.
Eleven BLP members in the House abstained when the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2016 was put to a vote.
The Bill received the support of 17 parliamentarians, including former Prime Minister Owen Arthur and BLP outcast Dr Maria Agard.
The measure, piloted by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, sought to raise the retirement age of the Director of Public Prosecution and the Auditor General from 62 years to 67 years in keeping with the wider public service.
Earlier, the bitter division between Mottley and Arthur was evident as the former BLP leader described his successor as “juvenile and jejune”.
Arthur lashed out at Mottley over her stance on the amendment after she took the opportunity to shred Government over the treatment of former workers of state agencies, including severed employees of the National Conservation Commission (NCC) who the Employment Rights Tribunal ruled last week had been unfairly dismissed in April 2014 as part of the administration’s retrenchment exercise.
The severed workers wanted the panel to order their reinstatement. However, it ordered the NCC to pay compensation equivalent to 52 weeks’ wages.
Mottley used strong language in her criticism of Government, accusing the Stuart administration of committing “political assassination only to be exceeded by political genocide” by severing statutory board employees, “with some of them losing their right to benefit from a pension”.
Making reference to employees of the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation who were forcibly retired last year and who have since sued the statutory agency, the Opposition Leader argued that the amendment should have considered employees in statutory boards so they would not have to go to court to assert their rights in relation to retirement.
“In the same way that the DPP and the Auditor General have not had to spend money to go to court to assert their rights, the thousands of employees of the statutory boards should receive the same treatment and protection from this Government which often asserts itself as the protector of the many, but has been found by the country to be the protector of the few,” she said in a fiery presentation.
The Member of Parliament for St Michael North East said while the administration “beats its chest” over last week’s Tribunal ruling, many of the affected workers had been deprived of a pension.
However, Arthur took offence to Mottley’s position, suggesting that it was naïve, simplistic and superficial and had no bearing on the measure before Parliament.
The former Prime Minister said that extending the retirement age to 67 was one of the important accomplishments of his administration, and he stressed that BLP legislators who were members of his Cabinet at the time should not now oppose decisions to which they had previously agreed.
“It is not often that Parliament meets to amend the Constitution of the country. The Constitution of the country is the supreme law of the land and any amendment to the Constitution has to be entered into seriously, judiciously and be judged on its merit because we are changing the supreme law of the land.
“Judging the amendment on its merit we cannot seek to intrude on that discussion, matters that we may think would give us some political support or be politically interesting but has no bearing on the matter that is before Parliament of the land,” Arthur said in an obvious jab at Mottley.
“This is a simple amendment to make sure that two posts recognized by the Constitution as being worthy to be in the Constitution. It is on those compelling grounds that I have to support the amendment to the Constitution. That is all that is being required to allow those two posts to benefit from the increase in the age of retirement,” the former Prime Minister stressed.