The Barbados Labour Party (BLP) Monday evening filed a motion for Parliament to defer the business of Tuesday’s sitting and discuss the concerns of trade unions and the private sector as a matter of urgency.
The Opposition took the action through its Member of Parliament for St James Central Kerrie Symmonds after a meeting of that party’s parliamentary group which decided that this morning march by an estimated 20,000 protesters, demanding talks with Prime Minister Freundel Stuart on the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL), deserved urgent attention.
Symmonds told a hastily called BLP press conference Monday evening that he filed with Speaker of the House of Assembly Michael Carrington “an application for the House to be adjourned on the basis that a matter of definite urgent public importance has arisen and request his Honour to allow Parliament to have discussion on the matter.
“The specific matter is the deepening impasse between two members of the Social Partnership and the Government of Barbados. That impasse is so deep that it is fair to say that the Social Partnership is now fractured.
“We as legislators and part of the Governmental apparatus of Barbados feel that there is a role for the Opposition to play in this matter and that role is to try as best as possible to urge upon the Government to return to the table for the purpose of having discussions about the very austere and burdensome National Social Responsibility Levy.”
The BLP spokesman said that in canvassing constituents Opposition parliamentarians had concluded that “the levy . . . is a matter of significant concern for people in Barbados.
“Ordinary households have been faced with a 400 per cent increase in the cost of virtually everything in this country. That is a completely unexpected imposition which every household must tackle,” he said.
Explaining that the rules of the House “allow us to request the adjournment of the ordinary business of the House by way of a motion for definite urgent public importance”, he recalled that the last time the Opposition succeeded in getting such a motion heard was in 2014 when then BLP parliamentarian, now an Independent Member of Parliament for Christ Church West, Dr Maria Agard, filed a motion demanding a breakdown of bills owed by the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) to pharmacists and other suppliers.
At that time those suppliers had created a health crisis by refusing to forward goods to the QEH until at least a part of the outstanding accounts were settled.
“The Speaker tomorrow will be asked to make a determination as to whether in his view – and it is only the Speaker who can make this determination – this satisfies that it is in fact urgent, in fact a matter of definite urgent importance,” Symmonds said.
“As long as he is satisfied and allows us to raise this matter for discussion, as an Opposition we will be urging Government to convene a meeting with the Social Partnership as soon as possible, certainly before the 18th of August [official due date] because we genuinely do not believe that this matter can be allowed to fester for another month,” he said.
Reflecting that the Opposition had long been making known its willingness to discuss the matters raised by the protesters, BLP leader Mia Mottley said Parliament had a responsibility to act “without prejudice to our participation anywhere else”.
Mottley also reiterated that the Prime Minister ought to meet with the Social Partners now, and not wait for the previously scheduled date of August 18.
“I believe that the Prime Minister can find the time . . . even if it means him having to defer normal meetings [of Cabinet] in order to be able to meet with the Social Partnership rather than waiting for the 18th of August to meet with the Social Partnership.
“We appeal to him in the strongest possible terms,” Mottley said.