Democratic Labour Party (DLP) president Verla DePeiza on Tuesday sought to distance her party from the Government’s decision to hire the retired veteran journalist, David Ellis, as its COVID Public Advisor.
In the public announcement of his appointment, Ellis said he had reached out to both the Leader of the Opposition Bishop Joseph Atherley and DePeiza as he considered the matter of fighting the coronavirus to be a nonpartisan issue.
But DePeiza declared: “In response to a comment made during the press briefing, let me make it clear here that the DLP was never consulted on this recent decision to hire Mr Ellis. We are never consulted on any matters related to the administration of this country. This Government would wish to give that impression and it is time the air is cleared. Our party would attend meetings of the Social Partnership when invited. Just as all other groups do. But more often than not the issues have already been decided upon.”
The appointment, announced by Prime Minister Mia Mottley on Monday afternoon, has met with considerable backlash over social media, to which DePeiza responded: “We have noted a trend of the Prime Minister to call upon the name of the DLP whenever questionable decisions – of which we have had no part – are lambasted. It has to stop. She must take full responsibility for whatever position her Government finds itself in. The blame game has become stale.”
The Dems leader also expressed concern that “previously independent voices were being silenced”. She questioned the roles of various state agencies that have been set up since the beginning of the year to handle Government public relations. “Just a few months ago, a new politically-coloured Public Affairs Department was layered on top the work of the Government Information Service (GIS), a Press Secretary and a high priced regional Communications Consultant,” DePeiza declared.
“This Public Affairs Department, nothing more than a political propaganda machine, was formed mere weeks after Ambassador Liz Thompson was named as head of a Covid Communications Unit, with an unknown number of staff. What is the overall cost of silence? Millions of dollars of taxpayers money at a time of significant economic and social hardship.”
DePeiza added that Barbados could ill-afford to have so many highly paid consultants on board at a time when many ordinary Barbadians were finding it difficult to survive on a daily basis.
She said: “One of the first orders of business for the Mottley administration, when it came to office three years ago, was to send home thousands of low-income public officers. After complaining about the size of the Cabinet and the very few consultants in 2018, we now see a bloated non-performing Cabinet, dozens of high-priced consultants, and scores of political friends and family being employed off the backs of taxpayers. The budget for consultants alone is in the millions.
“Barbadians are being forced to watch political largesse handed out to elites while the livelihoods of the underprivileged are put on the line by a government that refuses to muster the same urgency to extend unemployment benefits; refuses to ensure severance is paid, and refuses to reduce excise taxes and duties to ease the rising costs of living even though one of their own economists let it slip recently that they have the fiscal space to reduce those onerous taxes.”
She said that instead of hiring yet another consultant, Prime Minister Mia Mottley should “channel those funds towards various civic groups on the island who can enhance the efforts of the COVID Monitoring Unit in the community”.
Yet, DePeiza wished Ellis well in his new post and urged him to retain his journalistic objectivity. (DH)