BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – Bishop Joseph Atherley of the Evangelical Holiness Christian Community Church, one of the 30 candidates who contributed to the Barbados Labour Party’s (BLP) clean sweep at the polls May 24 last, has been sworn in as Opposition Leader.
But Atherley. says he has not had any falling out with the party on whose ticket he ran in last Thursday’s polls.
Speaking after his swearing-in at Government House on Friday morning, hours after Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced his move, he said he crossed the floor because of “the absence of a physical presence” of an Opposition in the House of Assembly, which resulted from the BLP winning all 30 seats in the general elections.
“I want to represent that physical presence on the Opposition benches to give critical support to the party in office and in government; to applaud them when they get it right – which I believe they will often -; to put pertinent and pointed questions to them when necessary to help to keep them on their toes. This is not about Joseph Atherley, this is about the people of Barbados, this is about our traditions of democracy, it is about about Parliamentary processes, which is why I am doing what I am doing,” Atherley, wearing a black suit and a red shirt and tie – the colour of the BLP -, told reporters after taking the oath.
“I come to this with an honest heart, I come to this moment, as I’ve come to several moments in my life, with a very serious reflection, with a sense of the leaning of God, and with a sense of purpose and destiny.”
There had been speculation that he took the action because he was not named in Mottley’s 26-member Cabinet despite being a veteran member of the party.
But Atherley said that while his move was “a shocking event for some”, it was not made out of any malice.
“It is not a reaction to any ministerial appointments made by the honourable Prime Minister last week and the omission of myself. It was definitely not a reaction to that. I’ve indicated that to the Prime Minister and to some other parliamentary colleagues,” he said.
“It is definitely not a repudiation of the Barbados Labour Party’s platform policies, especially as contained in its recent manifesto….It is not a rejection of the party as an organization.”
Although as Opposition Leader Atherley will go home with an annual salary of more than BDS$129,000 (US$64,500) plus allowances, he said he was “not in this for any personal motivation”.
“The people of St Michael West elected me to serve their interest. I will continue to do so.”
Atherley said he would name his senators shortly.
Last weekend, Prime Minister Mottley said there would be an amendment of the Constitution to allow the opposition party securing the highest number of votes in an election to be allowed two appointments to the Senate.
Atherley’s surprise move to the Opposition benches, which has left the BLP with a 29-1 majority in Parliament, was announced in a brief statement.
It said that Prime Minister Mottley had been informed, by way of letter, of the intention of the St Michael West MP “to serve in Opposition to the Barbados Labour Party Government”.
“This was further confirmed by letter from her Excellency the Governor General Dame Sandra Mason,” the statement noted.