Opposition Leader Joseph Atherley today warned Government legislators to tread cautiously on any resolution that would seek to prevent the crossing of the floor in Parliament.
In a frank speech during his contribution to debate in the House on the Central Bank of Barbados (Amendment) Bill, 2018, Atherley deviated somewhat from the subject matter to caution lawmakers against making what he termed an unwise move.
“All I am going to say is be careful about any resolution that prevents the crossing of the floor that locks you into where you are. That is all I am saying.
“ I am not saying I expect that to come, I am simply saying it happens in parliaments. It happened in Trinidad. Be careful if you go there, that is all I am saying,” he said while admitting that he had no knowledge of whether the House would debate such a resolution.
Though reprimanded by the Speaker of the House Arthur Holder for deviating from the substantive debate, the St Michael West Member of Parliament, who crossed the floor one week after the May 24 general election, nevertheless persisted, saying that he had taken note of Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s recent comments about his decision to sit on the Opposition benches.
Mottley, in a July 15 interview with veteran journalist David Ellis, said Atherley’s actions raised the issue of trust and the country must ask “whether we are doing a disservice by allowing this to fester rather than treating to the right of recall for those who cross the floor”.
In light of the 30-nil general election result which went in favour of the Mottley-led Barbados Labour Party (BLP), Atherley suggested that the Prime Minister’s large Cabinet was politically prudent, but was also “locking persons into a position in the hope that you could offset any disposition to cross the floor”.
He therefore argued that given the numbers on the Government side, it had to be careful about the measures it introduced.
“If you are not careful you will come into a situation where rather than challenge and correct and stem off abuse, you are actually creating a situation of abuse because if you introduce [legislation to prevent the crossing of the floor] in this Parliament tomorrow as you have numbers to do, nobody on that side can go anywhere unless they go back to the electorate and I do not believe Mr Speaker that that is way things ought to be.”
The Opposition Leader was adamant that he did not abuse any privileges of the House when he crossed the floor, suggesting instead that he was seeking to preserve the country’s tradition of democracy.
Atherley, who is a church leader, hit back at critics who suggested he betrayed the people of St Michael West since he was elected on a BLP ticket. He also rubbished the idea that he was merely after the Opposition Leader’s salary and that his pay was in fact the second highest salary in Parliament.
He made it clear that he represented his constituents for more ten years with his own money and had also been serving people from across the island through the church. He stressed that money had never been a motivating factor for him.
“I don’t live on a large acreage, don’t desire to. I do not live in resplendent circumstances of luxuries that are associated with those who have left these chambers . . . . I don’t drive the biggest vehicle in this country, never sought so to do. So tell them so, whether they are Dees or infuriated Bees, they do not know the honourable member from St Michael West if they think he is driven by that kind of consideration.”
As he wrapped up his contribution, Atherley made a case for the Speaker of the House to be a non-elected member on the grounds that the Speaker had no voice.
He quipped that while it was widely expected that he would have been appointed in the post, he would have declined.
“ . . . No that would never happened because my voice is not to be silenced in this Parliament,” he said.