Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth Stephen Lashley is denying that Government deliberately stayed away from this week’s observance of the 1937 rebellion at Golden Square, The City.
In fact, Lashley disclosed that Government officials were not invited to Tuesday’s event marking A Day of National Significance.
Only about 100 people turned out for the ceremony, prompting Opposition Leader Mia Mottley, who was joined by two of her 12 Barbados Labour Party colleagues, to take particular issue with the absence of Government officials.
“I remain astonished that in spite of an earlier administration designating today as A Day of National Significance we do not have the officers of State or those who lead this country present,” Mottley said at the time to her audience, which in addition to Opposition Members of Parliament Trevor Prescod and Edmund Hinkson, also included members of the trade union movement, foreign diplomats, Pan-Africanists and members of the Rastafarian Community.
Mottley compared Tuesday’s attendance with that which usually obtains for the annual Remembrance Day service, honouring those who lost their lives in the two World Wars, pointing that the Governor General, the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, the Commissioner of Police, the Chief of Staff of the Barbados Defence Force, the Chief Justice and members of the Judiciary were usually present for Remembrance Day.
“While I do not seek to cast anything negative about the continuation of that Remembrance ceremony for those who lost their lives in the two world wars, I find it amazing that those who lost their lives in the 1937 rebellion and those who did not lose their lives, but who fought against injustice and oppression and deprivation, will not have the honour of those officers associating with what has been officially designated by Cabinet as A Day of National Significance,” she said then.
However, Lashley hit back Friday, accusing the Opposition Leader of playing “cheap politics” and describing her contention as unfounded and misleading.
“The reason why I am saying this is because no invitations have come to the Government to attend this particular event. The Day of National Significance falls under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth and the Commission for Pan-African Affairs. However, none of the officers in my ministry has received any kind of information or invitation about the event. I think it is totally wrong and unfair for the Leader of the Opposition to make this kind of charge especially when she does not have the facts,” the minister told Barbados TODAY.
While acknowledging that it was a Cabinet decision to recognize July 26 as A Day of National Significance, Lashley stressed that the programme held on that day was not a Government event.
The minister said the Evening of Folk which formed part of the Crop Over calendar had always been seen as an event which commemorates the Day of National Significance.
Arguing that Mottley was selective in attending events, the Member of Parliament for Christ Church West Central charged that even though an invitation had been sent to her to attend Monday’s national consultation on the society, the Opposition Leader had failed to turn up for that event.
“She wants to pick and choose what events she should attend. I have not levelled an accusation at her as to why she failed to turn up. She was sent an invitation to attend as Leader of the Opposition, but she did not attend even though Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and members of the Cabinet were there. She chooses to attend events where she can get cheap political mileage,” Lashley said.