Outspoken trade unionist and Opposition Senator Caswell Franklyn today lashed out at Prime Minister Mia Mottley over her appointments of non-national Charles Jong as Director of Communications, and social activist and attorney-at-law David Comissiong to a senior diplomatic post, saying Mottley had “gone wild with power”.
Since confirming to Barbados TODAY this week that he was an advisor to Mottley on Caribbean Community (CARICOM) affairs, Comissiong has been announced as CARICOM ambassador, replacing retired trade unionist Robert Bobby Morris.
On the other hand, Jong, whose nationality is unclear at present, but who was based in St Kitts for many years, from where he participated in election campaigns in a number of Caribbean countries, describes himself on his LinkedIn page as a marketing and communications strategist with the Barbados Labour Party (BLP).
An upset Franklyn told Barbados TODAY there was a foul stench about the appointments, and questioned why Jong should be paid by taxpayers for a post that was unnecessary.
“The consultants to the Barbados Labour Party . . . [should] not [be] paid from public funds. That is a bill for the Barbados Labour Party, not the Government. The Prime Minister is overstepping the crease. If his LinkedIn profile is correct, he is a consultant to the Barbados Labour Party . . . .Why is he being paid by the Government?” Franklyn asked.
The controversial trade unionist suggested that the Barbados Government Information Service was equipped to carry out any function that Jong would likely perform for the state.
He also called for clarity on the terms and conditions of employment, including the contractual agreement between Jong and the administration.
“What is the Government Information Service for?,” Frankly asked.
“When was this contract tendered? Since the two of them were so close, there must be arm’s-length transaction. She just can’t come and pick up the Government money and give it to him just like that,” he stressed, going on to accuse Mottley of employing her friends at taxpayers’ expense.
“You cannot behave like that and use the Government funds as she pleases. We don’t have much. This lady has gone wild with power,” he stressed.
Franklyn insisted there was no need for the post of director of communications, stressing that if Jong had been working for the BLP as a consultant in the general election, “and now she is transferring that liability to the Government, that smells like corruption to Caswell Franklyn. That is wrong”.
The Opposition senator was no less forceful in his condemnation of Comissiong’s appointment, telling Barbados TODAY the decision had left him “at a loss for words”.
Franklyn said it also left a bad taste because of the relentless battle Comissiong had fought against the Freundel Stuart administration over its decision to grant permission for the construction of a US$100 million Hyatt hotel on Bay Street, The City, without first requiring an environmental impact assessment (EIA).
“Was he delaying and frustrating the Government to benefit the Barbados Labour Party? This is a reasonable question to ask,” he said.
After Comissiong sought a legal review of the decision by Stuart in his capacity as Minister responsible for Planning, the then Prime Minister sued on the basis that the social activist did not have a legal leg on which to stand.
The High Court dismissed Stuart’s case, ruling that Comissiong did have a right to challenge the decision. Stuart appealed the ruling, and the matter is still before the court.
Following the BLP’s sweeping victory in the May 24 general election, Comissiong offered the new administration an olive branch by stating he was prepared to discuss a settlement if the Mottley administration drops the appeal and agrees to the EIA.
With the matter yet unsettled, Franklyn charged that Comissiong’s appointment was inappropriate.
“It looks bad, it smells bad. He cannot be fighting against the Government on a point of principle and then quickly afterwards become a CARICOM consultant. What is that? What are his duties? His duties are a big cheque when the month comes? That, too, smells bad. And Comissiong, who holds high principles, should be ashamed,” the trade unionist argued.
Meantime, Franklyn also criticized Government’s decision to dismiss three senior officers of the National Housing Commission (NHC), including General Manager Lanette Napolean-Young.
He argued that it was wrong when the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) acted in a similar manner after it took office in 2008, and it is wrong now.
“If Lanette Napolean-Young had done something wrong, there is a disciplinary procedure set up by Government to deal with her. You could suspend her pending the outcome of the disciplinary hearing, but you cannot dismiss her legally,” he contended, adding that when Barbadians handed the BLP all 30 seats in Parliament, they did not expect “this nastiness”.
“I certainly didn’t,” he declared.