A visibly hurt Member of Parliament for St Andrew George Payne said he felt “disrespected” by the way he was informed that he was no longer Minister of Housing and Lands.
Speaking on Tuesday, two weeks after the Cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Mia Mottley, the former minister, now the longest-serving MP, told the House of Assembly he believes that “respect is due to a dog”.
In outlining the chain of events leading to his dismissal, Payne’s voice lowered, cracked and was inaudible at times.
He said: “I believe that I have been a member of the Barbados Labour Party since 1967 when I was at Combermere School. I have contested elections for the Barbados Labour Party under all Barbados Labour Party prime ministers. I have also served at the highest level in this party and I believe that there is a certain minimum level of dignity that should be afforded to me.
“I believe, Mr Speaker, at this stage of my political life I should not be called by a prime minister and be told that she is going to the nation in the next two hours to make what she would call a Cabinet reshuffle but really it was a removal from Cabinet.”
Payne, who was speaking on land purchase resolutions laid by his ministerial successor, Dr William Duguid, questioned the Prime Minister’s decision saying there was nothing “special” about the reshuffle.
“To make a decision like the one made two weeks ago, I would not like to say that it was irresponsible but I can’t get in a word,” Payne declared. “It was totally uncalled for. There is nothing special with respect to the changes I have seen. You are going to tell me after 40 years; after all the work done with colleagues you are going to tell me that you are not part of the transformation team.”
Payne then invoked the memory of the late former prime minister Professor Owen Arthur, who used the word “dictator”.
He said: “The former Prime Minister [Owen Arthur] used to say that Barbados, he was very blunt about it, that this Westminster-style Government allows us to choose the dictator that we want. It is unfortunate, painfully unfortunate.”
“Mr Speaker, there are ways of doing things. The same thing could have been achieved only if it was handled a little differently but to be treated like this. I had to ask myself was it worth it? The sacrifice that you have made and then to be treated in this undignified manner. I just don’t know what is the reason for it.”
The St Andrew MP was adamant that after his long record of service he should not receive such treatment.
Payne said: “I am not saying any person should be in a position forever, but I believe the period that I have been around the Barbados Labour Party should count for something. It counts for something and I cannot be treated like that.
“I have been involved in a lot of organisations, institutions and somehow or the other when I get involved at some point someone wants me to lead it.
One thing I like about this organisation is that I have been around for a long time and it is the only organisation I have belonged to that I haven’t had to lead.”
He said that following the announcement of his firing there were rumours about his health and ability to perform his duties which he sought to dispel.
The backbench MP said: “Despite the fact that some people have been spreading wild rumours that are deliberate about me being in a wheelchair and about me being ill. I believe that at this particular point in time I enjoy the best of health for anybody my age. I don’t have any health issues and I wonder whether or not these things were orchestrated in order to make it appear as though I was way passed my time. I am not.”
The former minister boasted that under his leadership in a previous BLP administration the Ministry of Housing had “some excellent housing programmes”. He claimed that there was a link between his dismissal and subsequent “staged” editorials of a media house.
Payne said: “I am a little surprised that since last week I am seeing certain stories on social media with respect to what could have been done. Due respect to the member for St Michael North East – somebody suggested I was overshadowed by her. There were certain comments relating to the fact that no houses had been built.
“And editorials, I don’t believe the person could do editorials of that nature unless they were framed. It is like I don’t want to use Donald Trump language but it was fake news. Editorials and comments were being staged unfairly with respect to my stewardship.”