Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) leader Mia Mottley has taken issue with statements made by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart during Sunday’s Democratic Labour Party (DLP) meeting in St George South.
In a press statement issued on Monday night, Mottley dismissed Stuart’s Against the Odds speech as a “wishy-washy attempt to defend his Government’s dismal record by declaring that his hands were tied by debt he inherited from the BLP administration”.
In the speech, Stuart told party supporters that the last decade has by no means been easy for his ruling DLP which not only walked right into a global economic meltdown, but inherited at least three major debts from the former BLP regime.
The Prime Minister explained that Government had had to “look for $30 million to pay for a [Dodds] prison we didn’t build” after rioting inmates torched Glendairy Prison. He said it also had to deal with the “Barrack situation” after contractor Al Barrack successfully sued the BLP for his part in completing the Warrens Office Complex and was awarded $34 million by the High Court in 2006 but the debt was allowed to accumulate interest of ten per cent a year, which brought the sum to about $150 million.
Stuart also said a rebuilt Kensington Oval was a drain on the public’s purse, adding that the only two times it was full was for Sir Garfield Sobers’ 80th birthday celebration, and last week’s DLP St Michael North West Development Fund gospel concert.
“So we have not had an easy time. This is not a complaint. This is statement of fact, and in that context, fighting against all of these demons, you had a Minister of Labour who never took her eyes of the ball, but who made sure the interest of the people were protected,” he added while speaking in support of Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer Suckoo’s candidacy in St George South.
However, in a statement issued on Monday night, Mottley said Stuart’s comments were for the most part “inaccurate and misleading”.
Following is the full statement issued by the Leader of the Opposition in response to the Prime Minister’s speech:
“At the Democratic Labour Party meeting on Sunday night, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart made a wishy-washy attempt to defend his Government’s dismal record by declaring that his hands were tied by debt he inherited from the BLP Administration.
His comments were for the most part inaccurate and misleading. It is clear that the Prime Minister’s memory is slipping.
Dodd’s Prison is a rarity in Government contracts in this country. Not only did it come in on time, but it was under budget.
The Prime Minister knows the Government got back $10 million from the agreed contract price to build Dodds. Mr. Stuart was the Attorney General when the ministry received almost $4 million in a cheque back from the contractor. Further, the ministry had also received the benefit of another $6 million from the contractor, which the ministry had previously authorized for the re-construction of Summervale and other works at Dodds. That the PM would raise the red herring of rebuilding the 19th century constructed Glendairy where sanitary facilities consisted largely of a bucket in grossly overcrowded cells is both unbelievable and unconscionable.
With respect to the handling of the Barrack case, it is the Democratic Labour Party Government that has incurred almost $30 million in interest over eight to nine years by its failure to honour a judgment of the courts. It could have dealt with this expeditiously as it has clearly done with other matters.
Finally, Kensington Oval was over 70 years old when the Government took the decision to acquire and rebuild this national landmark. It was done to facilitate a global event that showcased Barbados to the world. This is the home ground of the greatest cricketer that ever lived, the Right Excellent Sir Garfield Sobers, the lone surviving National Hero. It is also the home ground of many other world famous Barbadian cricketers. To suggest that Kensington Oval should have been abandoned and left to become a derelict ruin must have been for all Barbadians and true lovers of cricket globally the unkindest cut of all.
The Democratic Labour Party Government has done nothing to advance Kensington’s revenue earning capacity in the international sports arena. In fact, as recently as the end of last year his Government declined to sign a letter of comfort that would have brought the Women’s Cricket World Cup T20 to Kensington Oval. Instead, the Prime Minister is comfortable boasting about its prowess as a venue for DLP political events.
No amount of pleading and muddying of the waters by the Prime Minister at this 11th hour will convince Barbadians that the present Democratic Labour Party Government is not the most inept and incompetent administration we have had to endure since Independence and possibly since modern settlement.
Freundel Stuart has zapped Barbadians of their pride. The people of Barbados want to have a say in all of this. The Prime Minister must stop fiddling and, like Dr. Keith Mitchell in Grenada, give Barbadians what they want.”