One day after declaring she had joined the United Progressive Party (UPP) and was its leader of Opposition Business in the House, Dr Maria Agard put on a spirited defence of her new party against attacks from an old colleague.
The Member of Parliament for Christ Church West, who gave the UPP its first seat in the House just over two years after she was kicked out of the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP), fired back after BLP parliamentarian George Payne suggested during the Estimates debate that the fledgling political party was being financed by the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP).
“The law of Barbados allows minority or opposition parties to receive a subvention. Let me assure you that any money the UPP receives from the governing administration, it is the subvention to which it is entitled,” Dr Agard retorted, as she went on to remind Payne, the Member of Parliament for St Andrew, it was the BLP that introduced subventions to opposition parties after it assumed power in 1994.
Dr Agard, who won the Christ Church West seat on a BLP ticket in 2013 before a nasty row with party leader Mia Mottley led to her expulsion, and who late last year lost a legal challenge to her expulsion, also locked horns with Payne over his contention that the UPP was established specifically to attack the BLP.
“The Constitution of Barbados allows for the formation of political parties by people in this country who believe they have the intellectual capacity to serve the island at the highest level. I wish to stage categorically that the United Progressive Party was not set up to oppose the parliamentary opposition,” she said.
The UPP is headed by Lynette Eastmond, a lawyer who served as Minister of Commerce, Consumer Affairs and Business Development in the Owen Arthur-led BLP administration, but who has been soundly beaten by the DLP’s Dr David Estwick in each of the three elections which she contested – 2003, 2008 and 2013 – in St Philip West.
Several of the UPP candidates are also BLP rejects, including David Gill, who won the St Michael South Central seat for the BLP back in 1999, but lost to Richard Sealy in the three successive national elections.
Gill, who in October 2016 lost the nomination to run again on a BLP ticket to 38-year-old economist Marsha Caddle, has since gone on the attack against Mottley.
In her inaugural address to Parliament as the lone UPP legislator, Dr Agard also took a shot at her former party on the vexing south coast sewage crisis, contending that the BLP should be held responsible because it had mishandled the sewerage project from the beginning.
“The sewerage system of the south coast did not start with the negligence of the Barbados Water Authority with this dispensation. It did not begin in 2015, neither did it start with the failure to maintain the equipment as suggested by the Opposition.
“The problem of the south coast sewerage treatment facility started from the beginning with its implementation in the late 1990s and early 2000,” she charged.
“The people of Christ Church West, the people of Harts Gap where I live . . . have been complaining about that sewerage system and that it was fundamentally flawed from the start,” Dr Agard told the House, adding that legal action over the sewage problems started before the current administration came to power in 2008.