The surprise move by Bishop Joseph Atherley to cross the floor of Parliament to become Opposition Leader following the Barbados Labour Party’s (BLP) resounding 30-nil election victory last week, is proving to be a tough pill to swallow for some of his constituents in St Michael West, while others are seemingly prepared to move in stride with him.
The island was shocked last night when it was announced that Atherley had decided to part ways with the Mia Mottley led-BLP after just one week in Government.
Following her election on May 24 as the island’s first female Prime Minister, Mottley had indicated that she was willing to amend the island’s Constitution to make provision for the appointment of two Opposition senators.
However, in a brief statement last night, she said she had since been informed by letter from Atherley of his intention to serve in Opposition to the BLP Government.
This was further confirmed by letter from Governor General Dame Sandra Mason, ahead of today’s swearing in of the new Leader of the Opposition.
Today when Barbados TODAY visited Atherley’s urban constituency, several residents expressed disappointment over his decision to leave the BLP.
“Atherley has me really upset. I don’t know why he would do something like that. It doesn’t make sense, but he would have to know. It is not right.” said a disgruntled Timothy Titus who was of the view that Atherley would not regain his seat in the next general election, due here by 2023.
“I don’t feel that the people of this constituency will ever vote for him again. They will change him. They will bring somebody new out here because we don’t want [Democratic Labour Party candidate Michael] Carrington for sure, so the Bees will bring something new,” he said.
Mark Griffith also expressed concern about the quality of representation they would receive given Atherley’s move to the Opposition benches.
“I feel bad that he gone and switch sides. Down where I live we have a lot of problems and nothing was done. Now that he cross the floor I don’t know how we will be represented down here. It is causing me to ask if we will suffer for another five to ten years because our MP is not in Government,” he said.
Another resident, who requested anonymity, expressed her dissatisfaction with Atherley who now sits as an independent member of the House of Assembly saying, “he couldn‘t get my vote if I know he was going to cross”.
“This has all of us upset. After we put back our confidence in him and vote for him in our numbers and gave him back his seat, he did that to us. I don’t know why he do it.
“We are not pleased. What he did was being deceitful. Last Sunday he got up on the platform and preached like Paul and turn around and betray us and say he is a pastor,” she said.
However, 54-year-old Ruth Clarke, of Skeetes Road was of a different view. In fact, she seemed to fully accept Atherley’s position that having an Opposition voice in Parliament was most necessary at this time.
“Well there was no Opposition and I was quite disappointed with that, so Joe crossing is a good thing,” she said, while stressing that with “a one party Government there is no person to oppose so it is good that someone has crossed over because we need an Opposition.
“We need someone to keep the Government in line and I don’t think it will affect anyone in a bad way. He has done a good thing,” Clarke added.
Also giving the new Opposition Leader two thumbs up was Marcia Leslie who told Barbados TODAY he was hoping that more government MPs would switch allegiance.
“He did a god thing. We need an Opposition and I think he is looking out for us. We need someone to check up on Government for when they start to do nonsense. I am happy with him and when I see him I will congratulate him. He has not betrayed the party. We needed this.
“I am waiting to see who is going to cross next. I am hoping more persons go over. Governments get and do what they feel like and it shouldn’t be like that. I have no problem with the BLP getting in but all 30 seats I have a problem with that.”