An early political shot from Opposition Leader Bishop Joseph Atherley seemed to have set the tone for his just over two-hour presentation in the House of Assembly today.
The leader of the People’s Party for Democracy and Development was interrupted on 13 different occasions by five different Government ministers during his time on the floor during the Debt Holder (Approval of Debt Restructuring) Validation Bill.
At the start of his contribution the St Michael West MP made reference to what appears to be a “competition” between Minister of Labour Colin Jordan and Minister of Blue Economy and Civil Aviation Kirk Humphrey.
Referring to the two members, Atherley said: “I can appreciate the spirit of competition and I applaud the honourable member of St Michael South for so well and eloquently putting his credentials on table just now before this House and the public of Barbados. That does not escape me because you have two bright young men aspiring both to the leadership of the administration over there when the moment comes and weekly now they each try to outdo each other…,” Atherley said.
Minister Humphrey rose on a point of order and swiftly responded: “I don’t like to interrupt the honourable Leader of the Opposition but to suggest and state so boldly that some type of aspiration exists either in myself or the honourable member for St Peter is definitely misleading the House. There is no vacancy on this side and the person who holds the job on this side we all support with full, full, full support…”
However, that was not enough to silence Atherley who said: “I can also applaud the honourable member for St James Central who very quietly sits in the House these days and is very diligent and assiduous in pursuing his portfolio responsibilities and that is his way of staking his claim when the moment does come…”
But when Atherley moved on with his submission he was interrupted by Jordan six times, by Humphrey two times and later by Minister in the Ministry of Finance Ryan Straughn twice, by Minister of Home Affairs Edmund Hinkson twice, and also by Minister of Transport, Works and Maintenance William Duguid.
Apart from the “points of order” there were numerous asides and comments which came from the other side.
At one point Deputy Speaker Gline Clarke had to interject on Atherley’s behalf.
“Please allow the member to speak. This is his time and of course he has unlimited time,” the deputy speaker said.
“They can continue to stand to their feet and spew forth… No amount of distractions or interruptions will stop me from saying what I have to on behalf of the people of Barbados…,” the Opposition leader said.
He repeatedly accusing Government of not disclosing all the information as it relates to the island’s true debt.
“There is always a fuller truth that has to be said and spoken. We are glad that we have arrived at a seeming settlement of our external debt situation. We can get on with the business of trying to right the ship of this economy. The fact of the matter is we are happy for a deal but we cannot be overly glowing in our applause for Government if certain things are taken into consideration… While we boast of a 26 per cent haircut Greece got a 50 per cent deal better than Barbados. Argentina got a 70 per cent haircut. So we have to ask ourselves did we get the best deal possible or did we have to settle?”
The Opposition party leader also wanted to know what plan was in place to deal with domestic debt and questioned the use of White Oak.
“The majority of our debt, I think about $15 billion dollars, was domestic debt. If our debt was $12 billion and the external $2 billion…. why did we have to engage White Oak to lead negotiations in Barbados with reference to the domestic debt and pay them so much money? When first mention was made of White Oak in this House it was made mention of them to lead the external credit…”
Atherley also accused Government of going into an arrangement that could possibly see another administration having to commit to something that is not of their making.