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Leader of the Opposition Bishop Joseph Atherley has accused Government of blatantly using its majority in Parliament to abuse power.
He charged that another set of legislation recently brought to the House of Assembly had given ultimate power to a single person – Prime Minister Mia Mottley – and the situation was untenable.
Atherley also charged that decisions were made regarding Parliament and the Opposition was not included.
Referring specifically to the recent decision to conduct Parliamentary debates remotely, he said that neither the Standing Orders Committee nor the Management Commission of Parliament was engaged on this matter.
“In principle, I am not opposed to the use of technology for the conducting of Parliamentary debates. If we have to go there, let’s discuss it, let’s have the best possible situation and let’s go there. I cannot be opposed to what they put forward because it was not discussed with me, and therein lies the problem. This is not Government policy that we are talking about; this is parliamentary procedure, this is parliamentary protocol,” he said at a press conference at his Worthing Centre, Christ Church office on Monday.
“There was no consultation about that with the Leader of the Opposition. There was no consultation or discussions taking place around that.”
Atherley, the political leader of the People’s Party for Democracy and Development, said such acts seem to be “an abuse of power by force of numbers”.
“Recently, with the Emergency Powers legislation that the Parliament approved as part of the response to the COVID situation, much power was devolved from and by the Cabinet to the Prime Minister. I don’t think it is a situation that is tenable,” he said.
“I don’t speak to the current holder of the office but we may have tomorrow a Prime Minister who is otherwise disposed. I am very wary of a situation where we have devolved to a single person, the awesome power which is given to the Prime Minister in the Emergency Powers legislation.”
The Opposition Leader also cited the recently passed Planning and Development Act.
“If you look at the planning legislation, you will find that although the legislation was significantly changed . . . part of the reason for the change was to ensure that you could eliminate or reduce any potential for corruption and also have an expedited process of approvals.
“So you put in place a wider mechanism that would deal with matters of planning approvals and in the same legislation you enshrine a stipulation that allows the Minister responsible for planning, in this case the Prime Minister, to override the decisions tendered by that committee and with respect to major areas of development. We are not talking about small projects, we are talking about massive projects,” he said.
Bishop Atherley also contended that the Public Finance Management legislation was taken to Parliament with significant changes as well, giving the Minister of Finance, who is also Prime Minister Mottley, powers to take disciplinary actions against persons who run afoul of the regulations or stipulations. (Barbados Today)