Voters in St Michael West say they feel they have been dealt the equivalent of the biblical kiss of Judas by the man whom they elected by an overwhelming majority in the May 24 general election.
In the wake of the resignation from the ruling Barbados Labour Party (BLP) by Member of Parliament Joseph Atherley, seven weeks after he dramatically crossed the floor to become Opposition Leader, those who cast their ballots for Atherley say they have been betrayed by the man for whom they placed their cross and in whom they placed their trust.
Among them is Victor Goodridge, a 54-year-old BLP supporter who said he voted for Atherley, and now felt as though “he trick we”.
“I don’t feel good about it knowing that I voted for him. I feel like Mr Atherley let us down. We went all out and voted for him and now he hasn’t showed the interest to the party that he was supposed to represent. I am really disappointed in Mr Atherley. He trick we,” Goodridge told Barbados TODAY while going on to suggest that money was a factor in their representative’s decision to cross the floor.
“To me I feel it was a money thing. Don’t mind that after the elections people were saying the country needs an opposition, he shouldn’t have done it to us. I feel hurt about it and not only my one, every young person out here feels betrayed.
“If we want any help we can’t go to him. If we need any favours we can’t go to him. I know next time who to give my vote to. I voted for a man in May and in less than two months he switched and then resigned from the party. It doesn’t look good, it is total betrayal.”
In a recent television interview, BLP leader and Prime Minister Mia Mottley, speaking in reference to Atherley’s decision to cross the floor, said it raised “the issue of trust”, and suggested voters ought to have a right of recall in such circumstances.
Goodridge suggested something similar today in calling for a by-election.
“Yes, I will still back the Barbados Labour Party and I feel we should have a by-election. That is my feeling. He resigned, so that means we have no representative. He is no Bee, he is no Dee, we need to know what he is. That is the million dollar question.”
In his resignation letter dated July 20 and addressed to Mottley, BLP Chairman George Payne and General Secretary Dr Jerome Walcott, Atherley suggested his decision to cross the floor was not motivated by money, but by his desire to be the Government’s conscience.
He assured the administration of his “critical support” and “sincere plaudits” when it gets things right and “scrutiny of your actions and my castigation” when he believes they are going astray.
“I sit in parliamentary opposition . . . with an honest heart, simply offering my humble efforts in the interests of the people of St Michael West and in the cause of the people of Barbados,” Atherley stressed.
However, constituents did not accept his explanation, with one voter who identified himself simply as Streeter insisting money was the main reason.
“All politicians are the same thing. Atherley didn’t surprise me, but I didn’t expect the move but if you look at the salary difference you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out why he made the choice. Atherley tell heself he has a short life in politics ‘so let me go out with a bang’. Yes, people feel disappointed and betrayed and that is how it will be,” he told Barbados TODAY.
However, there were some, such as Roland Ifill, who were not as harsh on the Member of Parliament, even though they remained upset at his decision to leave both Government and the BLP.
Ifill said a number of residents were worried that promises made on the campaign trail would not become reality because their representative had chosen to be in Opposition.
However, he said Atherley appeared to have been left with little choice after he was overlooked for a position in Mottley’s Cabinet.
“The people in this community voted for him and a lot of people were looking forward to getting work and things happening in this constituency, but he wasn’t given a post or ministry, he can’t do nothing for us.
“All of us feel forsaken, that is the honest truth. We expected him to do for us and now he wasn’t given the job to help people. We feel hurt. If he wasn’t given a ministry within the BLP and he crossed over to try to make a difference it is obvious the people will go with him because he is still a good man,” Ifill explained.
Atherley, whose 3,214 votes in the May 24 election amounted to 77 per cent of the ballots cast – slightly higher than the 73 per cent won nationally by the BLP, shocked the country when he announced exactly one week later that he would cross the floor to become Opposition Leader.
This led to much speculation as to his motivation, with many suggesting he was attracted by the over $129,000 salary, along with the approximately $33,000 in entertainment and duty allowances.
However, he has repeatedly maintained that money did not factor in his decision and he had chosen to be the Government’s conscience.