by Shawn Cumberbatch
It was hot in the House today.
Tempers flared, voices were raised, one Opposition member had his contribution cut short and was asked to withdraw statements, another was threatened with temporary expulsion, and a Government minister apologised for the behaviour of members in a controversial sitting of the House of Assembly.
Members of the Democratic Labour Party and Barbados Labour Party vigorously debated and approved $614,000 to pay caterers and other service providers working with this year’s more than $4.6 million summer camp programme.
But before the measure was approved, members on the Government benches asserted the venture was aimed at socially uplifting the youth, while the Opposition said it was merely aimed at enriching DLP supporters, especially caterers who were being paid $3.5 million.
The contention subsequently grew when Chairman of Committees, James Paul, asked Christ Church West MP Dr. William Duguid to withdraw comments made about St. James South MP, Minister of Health Donville Inniss.
Additionally, Paul threatened to ask St. Thomas representative Cynthia Forde to “withdraw” from the chamber over comments he said he had heard, but later opted not to take such action since the statement was deemed “an aside”.
It all took place in the post lunch session of the Lower House. In his contribution during that period, Leader of the House, Minister of Transport and Works John Boyce said he was “appalled” that the BLP had sought to throw the programme “in the political dust bin”.
“On the one hand the members on the other side speak about bi-partisanship and how we need to get together on economic affairs, but summer camps are not economic in their minds,” the Christ Church South MP stated.
He was followed by Duguid, who severely criticised the programme, saying it was “time to call a spade a spade”.
“This summer camp programme is nothing more than a party political propaganda programme designed to propel the Democratic Labour Party into winning the next election. That is all it is, that is all it was designed to be and the people of Barbados know fully well that that is all they are doing,” he stated.
“The caterers have benefitted much, much more than the children could ever have benefitted… Getting $3.5 million to share between themselves is absolutely ludicrous, disgraceful. It is the worst thing that could ever happen in this country.”
When Duguid stated Inniss “has no morals or ethics” among other things, however, the contention grew, with the chairman telling him he had “breached in a very significant manner the rules of the House and … you would not be permitted to proceed with the speech”.
There was then a back and forth between members on both sides, after which Paul said he was disappointed with the conduct of members, who knew the rules of the House.
“This pattern of behaviour is certainly not acceptable. When I read the transcripts I will reserve further action,” he said.
Minister of Family Stephen Lashley, who led debate on the resolution, then apologised to the public.
The House was subsequently adjourned for 20 minutes over another dispute involving a comment allegedly made by Forde when Lashley was winding up the debate.
After the brief adjournment, Paul, who had initially said he would ask Forde to leave the chamber, said he would no longer do so, but warned members he would not be tolerating certain statements in future, even if they were “asides”.