Prime Minister Mia Mottley says it is “an issue of class and discrimination” which has blown up over a Good Friday incident involving owner of The Cook Shop Ross Ashton, police officers and herself.
Emphatically clearing herself of any wrongdoing, Mottley said she believed the issue had been blown out of proportion simply because Ashton’s business was located in Deacon’s Road, St Michael.
The Prime Minister’s response came as she continued to come under fire from some on social media and from President of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Verla De Peiza and Opposition Senator Caswell Franklyn, who both accused her of abusing her powers by intervening when she spoke to police officers after they tried to stop Ashton from operating.
“I’m surprised that nobody has asked how does this become a police matter. The bottom line is were restaurants and cook shops and food stores allowed to be able to serve on Sundays and bank holidays?
“You the media ask me that same question and the Attorney General that same question, what makes it different for you to ask and a citizen from Deacon’s Road can’t ask? What allows the manager of Massy to find out whether he can open up a side division of the stores as opposed to anyone asking?
“Fundamentally, this therefore for me is an issue, regrettably, of class and discrimination in this country and we have to come to grips with the fact that we need to stop playing the person kicking the ball and play the ball. We have too many instances where it is ok for one set and not the other set and all I’ve tried to do since coming to this office is to create a level playing field and a level of fairness and transparency to everyone,” Mottley told members of the media moments after receiving the first shipment of vaccines from the COVAX facility at the Grantley Adams International Airport this morning.
“Explain to me how you could have La Cabanne less than a mile away with the same tables and chairs outside, perhaps with less social distancing even, but you want to unfair the people in Deacon’s Road who, on Good Friday, come together to eat in circumstances where many of those youngsters don’t necessarily have the capacity to cook for themselves at home but rely therefore on community cooking as do many others in communities across this entire country. Now, the fact that people may feel or have a perspective of the young man is a different issue…”
Mottley maintained she had done nothing wrong by taking Ashton’s call and completely denied suggestions that she had undermined the operations of the Royal Barbados Police Force.
In fact, she contended that almost all of the island’s former Prime Ministers would have acted in the same manner.
“What do you think Errol Barrow would have done when he received that call on Good Friday? What do you think Tom Adams would have done? What do you think Owen Arthur or David Thompson would have done? There is only one Prime Minister I can’t necessarily swear for in terms of what he would have done, but that is the nature of who we are as a people,” she said.
“The bottom line is that this country has to be premised on fairness and non discrimination. And why do I keep coming back to this cancer of discrimination? Discrimination shows itself in many, many, many, many different ways and that is why I said very glibly, but very accurately, that if it was a call from Warrens or from Bridgetown or from a West Coast hotelier or South Coast hotelier it would be called facilitation but because it came from a man in Deacons it is now interference. Have we looked in the mirror and seen ourselves recently and asked ourselves why we are perpetuating all of these myths about who we are?
“And as it relates to the substantive issue, do we understand what separation of powers is? Where is the breach, what is the breach, because nobody can identify it clearly because there was no breach of protocol and there was no breach of separation of powers,” Mottley insisted.