“Atherley ready to debate ‘crossing floor’”

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Discord over Opposition Leader Bishop Joseph Atherley’s controversial departure from the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) surfaced yesterday as the House of Assembly debated matters related to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

And the St Michael West Member of Parliament made it clear he was ready to discuss any parliamentary motion which specified that no MP could cross the floor of the House “unless they resign their seat”.

In the pre-lunch session, the Lower House debated a resolution moved by Christ Church South MP Ralph Thorne, for the Chamber to accept and adopt the Report of the Public Accounts Committee 2013-2018. The former BLP Opposition had tried unsuccessfully to table the report in February.

Speaking during the debate, Minister of Tourism and International Transport Kerrie Symmonds said the resolution related to the PAC should have been moved by Atherley, who was PAC chairman, and not via private member’s motion.

He said Atherley “remained mute on the invitation to join in this process, and indeed to use his office as the instrument via which this matter was brought to the House.

“It is not for the first time that the Leader of the Opposition has spurned the efforts of the Barbados Labour Party, nor indeed is it for the first time that the Leader of the Opposition has shattered the expectations of the public,” the St James Central MP said.

But Atherley said it was “totally inaccurate” that he “was loathe to have these matters brought before the attention of the House”.

He said: “I was enthusiastic in dialogue with representatives from the [Government] that this be done in this way so as to not further delay its coming to this Chamber. He [Symmonds] has now made me very sceptical about entering into any arrangements with the Government side, which later and subsequently might be made from spokesmen from the other side to reflect negatively on myself.”

Atherley also stressed suggestions about measures to make it difficult to switch sides in Parliament “is not news to me”.

“I might get another chance to speak to those issues when the private member’s resolution comes to this Parliament that members cannot cross the floor unless they resign their seat. That should be of concern to the other side . . . and we really shouldn’t anticipate certain legislation, we really shouldn’t anticipate how others will vote,” he added. (SC)