Former Prime Minister Owen Arthur and a senior member of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) he once led traded barbs in the House of Assembly this evening, prompting bouts of laughter from the colleagues but a warning from Deputy Speaker of the House Mara Thompson.
For about six minutes during St Michael East MP Trevor Prescod’s contribution to debate on the Education (Amendment) Bill, 2014 he and Arthur, who resigned from the BLP in July 2014 because he said the party had lost its way, battled verbally.
After Arthur made his presentation, which included a suggestion that there would come a time that education would have to be paid for and the issue would have to be debated, Prescod rose to speak.
He said he was surprised that the former leader, who had prided himself on being the first prime minister to address poverty concerns in a meaningful way, had gone through a “metamorphosis” and was making such a recommendation knowing full well there were some who simply could not afford to pay for education.
However, Arthur interrupted on a point of order.
“The member was a member of the party that put on the statute books of Barbados a registered education savings plan. If he did not understand then what he was voting for, he should confess his ignorance,” he said.
After a few seconds of laughter from some MPs, Prescod continued by saying that he did not want to “get entangled in any disrespectful way whatsoever”.
“But . . . the fact that you are saying that this is a matter for public discussion, in order to reach a comprehensive conclusion, you’re also saying that no opinion stands absolute in this discourse on if education should be free or not,” he contended.
Arthur again interjected, arguing that Prescod was misleading the House.
“I have never tried to say that anything stand absolute. Perhaps in the modern incarnation of the Barbados Labour Party of which he is a member things are now absolute, but I am accustomed to an environment in which things are put for discussion to reach a conclusion.”
His comments were followed by more laughter and desk thumping and Thompson had to ask that MPs allow Prescod to continue.
But when he resumed, he hit back.
“On the eve before departure, we are hearing things that we don’t know if tomorrow we will hear the same thing because sometimes Alzheimer’s steps in and lucidity . . . “
Arthur interjected, reminding Prescod that he was the older of the two and if he wanted to confess to the House that he was heading to the Alzheimer’s stage he should do so freely.
“It is about the level of depreciation of an asset,” Prescod retorted.
By that time, the Deputy Speaker had had enough and told the two former party colleagues that she could not allow them to continue casting insults across the floor at each other.
“Please, desist. Continue with your presentation without the insults,” she ordered.
Prescod proceeded with his contribution, saying he agreed with Arthur that there was a need for a serious debate on education.
He said it could not be simply that “because of international trends where people are saying that everybody must pay for something” that Barbadians should be asked to pay for their education.