The Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) is painting Member of Parliament for St James South Donville Inniss as a political bully, after he hijacked the BLP’s walkthrough over the weekend.
However, Inniss’ opponent in the next general election Opposition candidate Sandra Husbands has drawn a line in the sand of sorts, making it clear to the parliamentary representative she would not be pushed around.
According to Husbands, Inniss, the minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development, showed up uninvited on Saturday to a BLP press briefing in the constituency and hogged the spotlight.
It was an unprecedented move that left Husbands fuming and members of the BLP wondering what drove the minister to crash their party.
“We had a mass canvas in St James South and we had ended it with a press conference to be held at Halls Village. We called the press and CBC [the state-owned Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation] showed up, and we noticed that shortly after Mr Inniss appeared. He then wanted to proceed to inject himself into the press conference which we were having.
“My position on it is this is a form of political bullying. He has not been in Hall’s Village for quite some time, because residents told me they haven’t seen him in a long time. I am not going to give in to political bullying, I will not. I am not going to back down to somebody who wants to engage in that form of interaction to come uninvited into a press conference,” Husbands told Barbados TODAY.
The BLP hopeful also wondered whether this was the sort of example Inniss wanted to set for the country’s youth.
“ I don’t think it sets a good role model for our young people. We don’t want to tolerate it on social media or in the schools, so therefore we should not . . . [exhibit] it in the political field if we are going to demonstrate to people that we are serious.”
In his engagement with the media Inniss provoked the ire of the labour movement by indicating that tomorrow’s planned march by the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union, the Barbados Union of Teachers, the Barbados Workers Union and the National Union of Public Workers to protest against the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL) would be nothing more than a weight loss exercise.
“A march or a walk by union leaders from Queen’s Park to Parliament in an aim to lose some weight or to burn calories is not absolutely necessary for Government to hear the views of the union. The unions and the Government have been in constant dialogue as far as I know,” Inniss said then.
His comment angered the unions, who fired back in a scathing statement in which they accused Inniss of being callous, arrogant, insensitive and “mocking the Barbadian workers” against the backdrop of the recent pay restoration afforded parliamentarians.
“The minister’s comments . . . are extremely unfortunate and bespeak a callousness, arrogance and insensitivity that has too often been observed both in the mouthings and behaviours of some members of the Government.
“The minister’s ten per cent has been restored, as has that of his colleagues, and so, [as they did in 1991] his interests have been protected before the inflicting of grievous wounds to this society. The daily suffering of Barbadians and the efforts of the unions, which are now the only entities trying to safeguard their interests, have become a source of ridicule and amusement for the minister and perhaps, others of his Cabinet colleagues,” the unions said, adding that “the efforts of Barbadians and their unions to seek to persuade against and reverse economic and social upheaval are being treated with scorn and contempt”.
Innnis’ comment also drew condemnation from Husbands, who said while the minister was “often very dismissive” of Barbadians, she was still shocked that he would describe the union’s action in this manner.
“He is often very dismissive of people’s concerns [but] I was surprise at that remark for the reason that in St James South we have a lot of people who are civil servants. It does not represent what I consider to be a caring representative, who has front and centre the interest of the constituency at heart,” she said.
“I feel that the unions have a responsibility to do whatever they believe is in their power to protect the rights of the citizens. The unions looking to take up their responsibility seriously need to be able to pursue a course of action that they believe will make a difference.”
In fact, Husbands told Barbados TODAY the NSRL, which jumped from two per cent to ten per cent effective July 1, was indeed a concern because it “is going to result in tremendous hardship for [constituents] in St James South.
“Even though you say that the levy is going to be on products, people in an effort to cope with the increase cost of living and business, will find that they too will begin to charge more for their services, in order to cope with the higher cost.
“All around Barbadians will find that everything they go to do will cost another five or ten dollars and when you put that cross the broad spectrum of things in order to manage our lives, then its going to create severe hardship,” Husbands stressed.