Opposition Senator Caswell Franklyn today walked out of a session of the Parliament after claiming that today’s meeting of the Upper Chamber put the lives of lawmakers at risk.
He declared that the Senate was seeking to pass legislation that in his view could wait until after the pandemic has passed.
During debate on the Income Tax Amendment Bill, Senator Franklyn declared: “You are bringing us here, risking our lives, to debate something pending since last year, and the other bill today dates back three years.
“This is reckless! Why not tidy these matters up after this crisis is over? Right now we have a crowd, and we are not exactly practising social distancing; we could have done this via a Zoom meeting, so you are risking everyone’s lives. I gone!”
But the Opposition senator’s action was condemned by Senator Kay McConney, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Smart Technology, who maintained that Parliamentarians were frontline workers too.
Senator McConney contended it was the lawmakers’ job to serve the people of Barbados, even during a crisis.
She told the Chamber: “If you look at Barbados’ pandemic preparedness plan… we recognize that the continuation of Government is one of the stipulations as a part of Parliament, even in a time of crisis. Therefore it is unfortunate when one of the honourable members of this House would see it fit that doctors are our frontline workers and must be out there, bus drivers are frontline workers and must be out there, that supermarket workers are on the frontline and must be out there and I can continue that list on and on. Why then must the Parliament of Barbados not also be on the frontline?”
“And so I say shame on those parliamentarians, one in particular who sought to walk out of this Parliament on a day when all of us chose to be on the frontline for this country.”
Earlier, Senator Franklyn questioned why the income tax amendments were now coming up when they were first mentioned in the last year’s Budget Speech. “This is a 2019 Budget measure. Now the law allows Government to raise taxes either by introducing new ones or increasing the rates of existing ones, but the Government has to come to Parliament within four months of making these proposals to effect them. This is beyond four months now.”
He accused the current administration of constantly “rushing things after the fact”. He gave as an example the fact that no laws were changed when the bus fares were increased from two dollars to the present $3.50.
He also criticised the decision to write off Value Added Tax debt dating back to the turn of the century.
He told the Senate: “I have no difficulty in lowering taxes, but this Government allowed people who did not pay VAT to keep it. It is a criminal offence to receive VAT and not pay it, but in this case, the Government took on the role of the Director of Public Prosecutions and instead of charging these people for not paying, they wrote off their debts.
“You cannot act as you like, based on the numbers you have; don’t abuse your responsibility every chance you get.”
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