A top official of the ruling Barbados Labour Party (BLP) today demanded to know where Opposition Leader Joseph Atherley really stands politically.
Making his contribution to today’s Budget debate in Parliament, Acting Prime Minister George Payne, who is also the BLP’s chairman, sought to turn up the heat on Atherley, who won his St Michael West seat in the May 24 general election on a Barbados Labour Party (BLP) ticket, but crossed the floor a week later to become Leader of the Opposition.
“Have you resigned from the Barbados Labour Party? And I am interested in that because I am the chairman of the Barbados Labour Party,” the Member of Parliament for St Andrew said, adding that “I am not going to ask you to resign from the Barbados Labour Party, I am leaving that to your conscience . . . and your conscience should prick you”.
While stopping short of accusing Atherley of betrayal, an emotional Payne also questioned whether Atherley intended to resign from Parliament as well and place his seat at the disposal of the electorate of St Michael West, while stating that he was “hurt” when he heard Atherley posing a number of questions during his Budget reply yesterday even though he had participated in consultations with regards to the BLP’s manifesto pledges.
“We in our manifesto . . . we stressed the need for consultation. And as I said, the consultation was done before the election and the consultation was done after the election. So in a sense, it hurt my heart when I listened to the Leader of the Opposition and I realized that there were certain questions he asked with respect to the budgetary proposals. I was hurt,” the BLP Chairman stressed, while recalling that “every night during the election campaign, nobody articulated these policies any better than [Atherley]”.
“And to come to this House and ask if Mia’s plan is home-grown or facilitated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) . . . . If we [BLP] sent signals to the electorate of the [painful] path ahead; for the Honourable Leader of the Opposition to come to this House and ask those questions, I think is an insult to all of us,” he added.
Atherley sat in the Opposition Leader’s chair as Payne continued to fire questions at him regarding his participation in the BLP campaign.
“If you knew that our manifesto pledges and promises were [lacking] in the manner that you spoke [in Parliament], why did you articulate them?
“You had 29 people either going into your constituency or next to your constituency every night . . . and you were the holy one, and you did not tell them, ‘I don’t want you to say that,’” the Acting Prime Minister said, before advising that “If you don’t believe in the policies . . . [and] you are a member of the party . . . when the members [of the BLP] come to speak, tell them, ‘I do not want you to say certain things on my political platform’. But you aided and abetted all of that. You were part of a team. You should have come in here [Parliament] quietly and objected to the Budget . . . . You shouldn’t have asked those questions,” Payne told the Opposition Leader, while demanding to know if he thought he would have won his seat as an Independent candidate.
However, no response has so far been forthcoming from Atherley, who voted this evening with Government to ensure the smooth passage of the Budget even though he had earlier described the $1.2 billion austerity package as excessive.