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Government responds to social media post

Government responds to social media post
This image, making the rounds on social media, shows the seating arrangements in the park. (GP)

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The Government of Barbados issued a press release today responding to a social media post about an incident which occurred in Deacons, St Michael on Good Friday.

It said contrary to the post, Prime Minister Mia Mottley did not call any member of the Royal Barbados Police Force to intervene in the incident.

The release follows in full below:

Within recent hours, a social media post regarding an incident at Deacon’s Road on Good Friday has been gaining significant traction, even though the salacious details at its core are untrue.

According to the post, on Good Friday, police ordered the closure of a “cookshop” that is operated by Ross Ashton on Deacons Road, but that Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley intervened by calling Deputy Commissioner of Police Oral Williams, who then instructed the officers to leave the operators of the establishment alone.

While citizens, for whatever reason, are free to comment on and even criticise the words or actions of any other citizens, including the Prime Minister or any other member of the Government, they cannot create half-truths and lies and promote them as facts.

And what are the facts?

  • Sometime around noon on Good Friday police visited the food establishment operated by Ross Ashton, where residents from the district were taking advantage of a $25 lunch special. Between that first visit and 2 p.m. two other detachments of officers visited.
  • Police told Ross Ashton he was operating the establishment in contravention of Emergency Management (COVID-19) Direction No. 7, and he was ordered to close immediately.
  • Ross Ashton told police he was operating a legitimately licensed restaurant and the Emergency Order expressly allowed him to open and serve customers.
  • The establishment was serving customers seated in the community park area outside the cookshop, as it had done consistently on holidays for more than two decades.
  • Ross Ashton referred the police officers present to Section 7(1) of the directive, which states: “Notwithstanding anything contained in the Directive, food service establishments shall be permitted to open from Monday to Sunday, between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. … and (2) Owners or operators of restaurants catering to dine-in patrons shall maintain at least 6 feet of separation between table set-ups within restaurants.”
  • Police, however, insisted that he had to close.
  • At 2:01 p.m., Prime Minister Mottley received a call from Ross Ashton and Horace Bayley, enquiring whether or not under the current Directive the cookshop at Deacon’s Road was permitted to open and she answered in the affirmative. They then outlined the challenge they were having with the police.
  • With the phone in “speaker mode”, Prime Minister Mottley asked the policeman whether patrons were seated in a manner that complied with physical distancing protocols and the policeman answer in the affirmative.
  • Prime Minister Mottley then asked whether the patrons were wearing masks, and again the policeman answered in the affirmative.
  • At this point Prime Minister then asked the policeman what was the concern that would require their insistence that the business be closed and there was no other concern expressed.
  • The phone call was terminated at this point and the police left the area.
  • At no time while police officers were on the scene, or after the incident, did Prime Minister Mottley call Deputy Commissioner of Police Oral Williams or Assistant Superintendent of Police Debra Thomas. At no time during or after the incident, did the Prime Minister have any conversation with either of them or any other officer of the Royal Barbados Police Force in connection with the incident, as alleged in the social media post.
Government responds to social media post
Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley. (GP)

Daily since the restrictions were lifted, a number of restaurants across the island, including upscale establishments like La Cabane on Batts Rock Beach and the Animal Flower Cave Restaurant, in St. Lucy, have been serving patrons in open-air facilities, a set-up that lessens the opportunity for the COVID-19 virus to spread. None of these has been asked by police to shut their operations.

Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, ever since the publication of the first directive last year, the two principal persons from the Government who have been fielding questions when issues arose have been the Prime Minister and the Attorney General. They have come from every areas of business and every walk of life — from the village shopkeeper, to the funeral home operator, to the heads of the largest conglomerates operating here, and at all times of the day and night.

A call from any resident of Deacon’s Road to the Prime Minister is absolutely within the character of a typical day for her. In fact, on Good Friday, just as she engaged Ross Ashton and other concerned residents of Deacon’s Road, she engaged scores of Barbadians on a variety of issues on the phone. As long as the Prime Minister is available, she takes calls from Barbadians, regardless of their background or circumstances.

This mischievous attempt to make political capital from the simple and everyday occurrence of the Prime Minister accepting a phone call from a citizen by deliberately distorting facts, injecting untruths and constructing a narrative in such a manner as to capture people’s attention with salacious commentary, will only harm our country. We are much better than that.