The debate in the House of Assembly degenerated into borderline personal attacks today as Leader of the Opposition Mia Mottley locked horns with Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley on the decision to postpone the Pic-O-De-Crop finals and his trip to China several months ago.
The situation forced the intervention of the Speaker of the House Michael Carrington, who demanded that members confine their comments to the debate before the House.
It was while discussing the resolution to acquire Sam Lord’s Castle that Mottley segwayed into the issue of the calypso competition.
She indicated that Government erred when it delayed the finals by a day, likening it to “smoke and mirrors” in light of the discontinuation of the warning for Tropical Storm Bertha.
But Minister Lashley quickly pointed out that the decision was taken based on the advice of the Meteorological Services.
“As it turned out, the decision was in fact the right decision and therefore the allegation from the Leader of the Opposition that that was an indication that the Government didn’t know what it was doing [is wrong]. I believe that was an indication of purposeful action taken in relation to a major event where the advice was that you have storm-related weather, the decision had to be made to ensure that safety of patrons was paramount,” Lashley said.
However, Mottley refused to back down, insisting, “this is a case of spinning top in mud to make yourself look good” and charging that the minister had often spoken without being armed with facts.
She proceeded to mention the trip to China taken more than three months ago by Lashley, his wife and his permanent secretary.
According to Mottley, the country spent more than $14,000 on the trip, despite an assurance from the minister that it would not cost the state anything.
In an attempt to clarify the issue, Lashley said China did bear the cost of the airfare and accommodation, while per diem was given by this Government.
Rising on a point of order, he accused the Leader of the Opposition of attempting to mislead the House and “showing she has nothing sensible to say in the debate”.
He accused her of using what he considered very insulting language, even as he took potshots at her status as a single woman.
The Speaker subsequently asked him to withdraw his latter comments, before requesting that the debate focus on the resolution.