Barbados Labour Party (BLP) Chairman George Payne is sticking to his guns that politics is at play at the state-run Transport Board.
In the latest in a back and forth over a request for chartered buses for a major BLP event this weekend, Payne challenged the Transport Board’s contention that it had given the party a positive response and was therefore surprised at his criticism of the transportation agency yesterday morning.
Transport Board General Manager Sandra Forde yesterday dismissed as absolute “foolishness” a claim made by Payne that the Board was blatantly refusing to grant the BLP’s request made on February 15 to charter 15 buses for its annual Heroes Day picnic, which comes off on Saturday along the Ermy Bourne Highway.
In fact, she suggested that not only had the Transport Board responded “positively” by email yesterday morning to the BLP’s request, but it had been in constant contact with the Opposition party since the request was made.
“We are professionals here at the Transport Board. They are our customers and we would meet their request to the best of our ability. Our response was positive and up to this morning we did send an email to the [Executive Assistant to the Opposition Leader] Pat Parris and that was in line with other correspondence that would have been sent to them. [Therefore] that accusation [made by Payne] is foolishness because we don’t operate at that level. I take my job very seriously,” Forde said in response to the charge made by the BLP spokesman.
However, in a press statement today Payne was adamant that politics was at play.
“During a site visit yesterday, I told reporters the party was yet to receive a response from the Transport Board, and that I saw this as a politically-influenced rejection of our request in an election year and that we had made alternative arrangements by deciding to hire 185 coaches, ZRs and minbuses to make sure that transportation is not a problem,” Payne explained.
He also sought to make it clear that up until the start of the site visit at 11 a.m., the BLP had not received any response from the Transport Board with respect to its earlier request.
“The email referred to by Ms Forde was sent from the Marketing Department at 11.26 a.m., almost half an hour after the site visit began,” Payne said.
“[Therefore] comments in the media attributed to Miss Forde in which she dismissed my concerns as ‘foolishness’, made no mention of the time the email was sent or the fact that the Transport Board was not fully meeting the BLP’s request,” he added, while insisting that “prior to yesterday’s meeting, the only piece of correspondence [the BLP] had received from the Transport Board was an email on April 3 from Marketing Manager Mrs Lynda Holder apologizing for the ‘delayed response’ to the February 15 request and a promise to give a definitive response by April 4, 2018.”
However, he said “no such response was received”.