Opposition Leader Mia Mottley, commenting today following receipt of official notification that a no-confidence motion in Speaker Michael Carrington had been ruled “out of order”, said their case against the presiding officer of the House of Assembly was for the people of Barbados to decide.
Speaking at a news conference on the same day the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) ended an almost two month-long boycott of the House, Mottley said the ruling on the no-confidence motion was made by Deputy Speaker Mara Thompson and communicated in a letter signed by Clerk of Parliament Pedro Eastmond.
No reason was given for the Deputy Speaker’s decision. However, Mottley said the BLP’s case against Carrington was based on “moral and ethical” grounds and would remain as such.
“We simply say that this is a matter for the people of Barbados, she said.
The no-confidence motion stood in the name of Leader of Opposition Business Santia Bradshaw, the Member of Parliament for St Michael South East.
Carrington, a Queen’s Counsel, came under Opposition scrutiny after the High Court ordered him to pay an elderly client over $200,000 in outstanding monies which represented the proceeds from a property transaction some years ago. After the news made headlines, Bradshaw raised the issue in the House days afterwards and sought to have Carrington relinquish the chair.
The matter was referred to the Privileges Committee of the House for determination by Thompson, after Carrington temporarily left the chair on the day the issue was raised. He returned to the chair at the next sitting, drawing objection from the Opposition which announced a boycott in protest.
Mottley told reporters today that once the decision was made to refer the matter to the Committee of Privileges, “this is a matter on which there is no vote.”
The St Michael North East MP said her party participated in the deliberations and decided against taking any further action until the deliberations were completed. She said the Committee completed its work over a month ago but had not submitted its report to Parliament for consideration.
Arguing that the Speaker was held to a code of ethics similar to that which governs members of the legal profession, Mottley said: “What is of particular note is that the behaviour of the Speaker, as an attorney-at-law, is governed by the legal profession code of ethics.
She added: “Those rules make it absolutely clear what kind of standards are expected of attorneys-at-law. Indeed, in the motion, we make it clear that the dignity and honour which is required for a person to practise as an attorney-at-law, are the same characteristics that are required for the person occupying the Chair of Speaker.”
Subsequent to the court order, Carrington paid the client.
Commenting on the BLP’s decision to call off its boycott of the House, a University of the West Indies (UWI) political scientist said it had no choice. “They had to get back into the House and the main reason why they had to get back . . . was the upcoming budget,” Dr Tennyson Joseph told Barbados TODAY.
Dr Joseph said while the rationale for moving against the Speaker was a “genuine one,” the “wrong strategy” was employed. “They put it in the hands of the Government side to write the report coming from the Committee of Privileges.”
He said the BLP had to make a choice as there were more important matters at this time, especially the upcoming Estimates debate. As a result, the boycott could no longer work.
“One of the Government’s biggest weaknesses is its handling of the economy,” said Dr Joseph.
“The Government was actually looking forward to them not being in the House, so they had to put (the boycott) on the back burner.”
Recommending a more effective strategy, Dr Joseph said: “I would have taken an approach where I wanted to keep reminding the public that the Speaker had done this deed in relation to his client. What I would do is that whenever he walked into the House, I would turn my back or something like that.
“That kind of action would be a consistent action, even if there would be a little back and forth with him telling you to face the chair. At least once that action was taken, then the public would be reminded as to why they were taking that action and it would also weaken the legitimacy of the Speaker,” he added.