Leader of the Opposition Joseph Atherley walked out of the House of Assembly tonight after strongly objecting to the “late hour” in which Government had brought a supplemental of over $4 million dollars to the Chamber for Approval.
Atherley objected on three separate occasions, pointing out that it was 8:15 p.m. after a “long day”. He also complained that he had only been given notice of the supplemental minutes prior to the announcement by Leader of Government Business Santia Bradshaw.
Atherley declared: “Mr Speaker, I really have to ask what is the urgency attaching to this matter that we introduce a resolution for a supplementary $4 million dollars it is 8:15 in the night after a long day not giving the Opposition time to prepare.
“Could this not be deferred I could appreciate and understand that… but state that and outline the urgency attached to this.”
But Bradshaw said there was nothing peculiar about the supplemental and that it was not the first time short notice was given.
She said: “We would have shared with the Leader of the Opposition a copy of the Supplementary before this was announced just now.
“There is another Bill as well, Mr Speaker, that we are not doing tonight but the Supplementary is very straight-forward.”
She continued: “It is not the first time that we have done supplementaries on short notice either so I don’t think this is peculiar in any way as the honourable member is seeking to indicate to the public.”
But Atherley rose and objected yet again, saying that there needed to be an explanation of the “urgency” of the supplemental.
He said: “Mr Speaker, I am not seeking to indicate anything to the public. I am stating a fact.
“I was just given this document a couple of moments ago.
“A cursory glance suggests that you want $4 million dollars voted by the Parliament.
“I am not even too sure about the figure. All I am asking is, is there urgency attaching to this?”
Then Minister in the Ministry of Finance Ryan Straughn stood to explain the “importance” of the funds needed and what they were needed for. But the Opposition Leader said while the Minister had explained the importance he had failed to explain the “urgency”.
He said: “Mr Speaker, the urgency in which the honourable member for St Michael West is requesting is there are two things, Mr Speaker, Sir. If we were allowed to do the presentation it would become clear.
“There are two elements… one is to bring resolution to the pensioners related to the resolution of the British American pension plan and the second one important business is… to ensure that we can start the next cohort of the Barbados Youth Advance Corps.
“And therefore timeliness with respect to the supplementary… the release of funds to be able to have those young people who have already have been enrolled in the programme and to begin a new cohort, Sir, in the shortest possible time and be able to move forward that is why we bring this particular resolution here this evening.
“This is the same way, Sir that we did a couple of weeks ago with respect to our response to the Coronavirus in terms of our preparations. Government has to do its business.”
Atherley still was not satisfied with the minister’s explanation and he objected yet again.
He said: “I am still insisting an explanation be given as to the urgency.
“I heard the honourable member for Christ Church East Central speak with reference to the importance of this matter which I understand.
“Why can’t this be done tomorrow, or the day after or the day after? Why tonight? Why is it urgent?”
After his submission, the leader of the People’s Party for Democracy and Development did not catch the eye of Speaker of the House Arthur Holder who instructed Bradshaw to proceed in her application for the House to go in Standing Finance Committee.
“Honourable Leader of Government Business you had asked for the House to resolve itself into Committee? The Standing Finance Committee to consider this? Please make the application,” the Speaker said.
After there was no change in Government’s plan to in Finance Committee, a visibly annoyed Atherley packed up his stuff, stood up and shouted: “Bad move”, before walking out of the lower chamber.