Dr Maria Agard has described Bishop Joseph Atherley’s recent decision to cross the floor of Parliament as “the greatest sacrifice and the greatest exercise of democracy” while urging him to “ignore the naysayers”.
In a post of her Facebook page, Agard who was down to contest the May 24 poll on a United Progressive Party (UPP) ticket after she was given the boot by the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) in November 2015, but pulled out at the last minute, said there was a vacancy of Leader of Opposition and Atherley filled it.
A week after winning the St Michael West seat on the BLP ticket, Atherley crossed the floor to serve in Opposition to the BLP Government.
“You averted the unnecessary tinkering of the Constitution which is currently under threat,” Agard wrote on Facebook.
“The country has a Parliamentary Opposition which is key to the pursuit of good governance.”
After he was sworn in as Leader of the Opposition, Atherley made it clear that his decision to leave the Government following its emphatic victory at the polls in which it claimed all 30 seats at stake, did not have anything to do with the fact that he was not given a Cabinet post in the Mottley administration.
In fact, the bishop sought to make it clear that he was guided by only one ministry, that being a religious one.
He also said that sometime subsequent to the outcome of the election – “election night or election morning” – in sober reflection, he had questioned whether Barbadians truly wanted a situation in which there was no physical opposition presence in parliament, adding, “I think not.”
Agard in her post said Atherley’s independent presence as Leader of the Opposition will give voice to the thousands who do not support the Government to widen discourse on critical matters.
She also noted that, among other things, Atherley had immediately increased his staff complement which will benefit his constituents or some worthy associates; increased his presence and access to social services and providers which will benefit his constituents; acquired the right of first response to every debate in the House of Assembly; and immediately became Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee with independent oversight not only of previous fiscal dealings but current and future machinations.