Two weeks ago while he was acting as Prime Minister in the absence of Ms Mia Mottley who was in Washington attending important talks with the International Monetary Fund, Mr George Payne stood on the floor of Parliament and, rightly so, demanded accountability from the Leader of the Opposition Bishop Joseph Atherley.
“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 demanded to know of Mr Atherley in light the surprising move he made immediately after last month’s general election to quit the Government and to cross the floor.
“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,” an obviously incensed Payne added at the time, while stopping just short of calling Mr Atherley ‘Judas’.
Ironically, Mr Payne is the one who is now sitting in the proverbial hot seat and while we would have loudly applauded him on June 13 for holding the Opposition Leader’s feet to the fire as per his Government’s solemn promise to ensure there is full transparency in public decision making, he too has now sinned and fallen short of the acceptable governance standard.
In fact, the very claims Mr Payne levelled against the goodly bishop in terms of failing to account to the people for his actions, could just as easily be made about him against the backdrop of this week’s unexplained firings at the National Housing Corporation (NHC), which have occurred under his direct watch as the substantive Minister of Housing.
Barbados TODAY first broke the story, based on information provided to us by well-placed sources, that General Manager Lanette Napoleon-Young, who was appointed under the previous Democratic Labour Party administration, received her termination letter on Monday.
Since then we have made several attempts to reach Mr Payne for comment on the development but to no avail, and while the NHC chairman has since been quoted elsewhere in the Press as simply confirming the development, we believe that the issue warrants fuller explanation, especially since, as we have been made to understand, one of those actually doing the firings is a former deputy general manager now deputy chairman of the NHC, for whom there is no love lost with the last administration.
And even though the NHC has long been a thorn in the side of many in the current Government who have been the main purveyors of information about alleged internal malfeasance at the statutory corporation in recent months, did it warrant Ms Napoleon-Young’s sacking, or indeed that of the other two women who were simultaneously shown the door? And at what cost to the country?
We would like the minister to come clean on this matter if only for the simple fact that it would show that he is operating his ministry by the same high standards he currently holds the Leader of the Opposition to.
For there simply cannot be one set of rules for the Jews and another for the Gentiles when it comes to the business of public accountability.
Therefore, if three senior officers of the NHC are to be sent packing within weeks of a new Government taking office, we should, at the very least, be told officially that this has occurred and not have to rely on the informal grapevine no matter how reliable it may be.
The same with the National Cultural Foundation, the Transport Board, the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation or any other statutory body. It certainly does no good for anyone – least of all the new administration – to allow it to go abroad that this island’s post election position is even more tenuous than that which existed prior, and for persons to otherwise question if the change Barbados got was really what was needed.
In short, some early communication cracks are showing in the Mottley Government which we urge it to quickly fix, lest it is perceived that some sinister deeds are afoot; that victimization has occurred at one or more levels; and/or that it is haunted by the very same incompetence which it said was the hallmark of the last administration.