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Opposition Leader frets over lack of resources for office

by Marlon Madden
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While lawmakers approved over $95.9 million from the Consolidated Fund to supplement the 2021/2022 Estimates, Opposition Leader Bishop Joseph Atherley is crying shame on the lack of provision made for his office.

Atherley, who broke away from the governing Barbados Labour Party shortly after the general election in May of 2018 to form his Opposition party, said he was convinced “we pay lip service to this office”.

He lamented the absence of adequate staff while insisting that the Parliament should financially support the office of the Opposition with costs for retaining legal fees in certain circumstances.

He was addressing lawmakers in Parliament on Tuesday as the Standing Finance Committee on Supplementary Estimates discussed the $95,966,535 earmarked for various government ministries.

Atherley said his office had made a formal request of the Management Commission of Parliament for a research officer but more than a year later the matter had not been addressed, leaving him to do all the necessary research himself.

The Opposition leader further bemoaned the staffing levels of the office suggesting that there was need for more personnel and allowance for some staff.

“Do you know how the office of the Opposition is staffed beyond myself? There is a secretary who does typing and filing and correspondence. There is a personal assistant . . . Beyond that, we have a maid and beyond that we have a driver/messenger. That’s what the Leader of the Opposition in the Parliament of Barbados and in the governance structure in Barbados, has at his disposal to stand up against 28 over there. And there are some on that side who think this is a trivial issue,” said Atherley.

“It cannot be that we allow it to persist. You have a driver/messenger who is not provided with any allowance for use of his vehicle. He is not given a vehicle or let to use a vehicle belonging to the State. He must use his own vehicle or he must use mine, which is way past its best use date. This is what we are facing in Barbados in the Parliament of Barbados in 2021,” he lamented.

Atherley also raised concern about the lack of security at the present location where both Houses of Parliament would meet, and also the location where the office of the Opposition is located due to work being carried out on sections of Parliament building in the City.

He pointed out that the security at the Worthing Corporate Centre in Hastings was not the same when the government ministers were not on the compound.

“If I were to be here and I leave here after the security provided for the building by the operators of this building, the gate is closed. I can’t get out through that front gate. I come here on a weekend I can’t get in through that front gate. If I leave here after a certain hour in the evening I have to go through the back of this property,” said Atherley.

However, he expressed concern that it was not safe given the overgrown shrubs.

“That is not good, that is not proper. It is not right,” said Atherley, who insisted the issue was not a joke.

He said he was also of the view that charges attached to legal representation of the Office of the Leader of the Opposition “should be looked after by the Parliament of Barbados”, recalling that his decision to form an Opposition in 2018 was challenged in the law courts.

“These are things that the Management Commission of this Parliament must look at,” said Atherley, who added that he had raised the matter with the administration of Parliament in the past.

marlonmadden@barbadostoday.bb

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