A daily newspaper found itself on the receiving end of a government minister’s acid tongue for reporting that former members of parliament are being paid a total of half-a-million dollars monthly though the island has no parliament.
Barbados currently exists in a governmental vacuum because of the absence of a functioning parliament, which had ended its five-year term on March 06, and with Prime Minister Freundel Stuart yet to call a date for elections, there is uncertainty on when people of the island be able to elect representatives to oversee their affairs.
But an oddity in the constitution enables the 30 former members of parliament to continue receiving their full pay until the holding of elections, which must be conducted within 90 days of that March 06 automatic dissolution of parliament.
Ministers in the 16-member government cabinet also continue to enjoy full salaries, and these include five unelected persons who were appointed as senators.
The Nation newspaper had reported that the ex-MPs and cabinet members are receiving a total of $468,448.92 (Bar$1 = 50 cents US) of taxpayers’ money, and it was explained that this constitutional proviso was there because cabinet as the executive still had to make decisions for the country, and the ex-MPs were on standby in event of a national emergency.
But an infuriated Minister of Education, Ronald Jones described the newspaper’s report as “a wicked, deliberate, spiteful level of behaviour”.
He asked over the weekend, “what is that about? Why are we descending into the bowels of nastiness in this country, for what purpose?”
Jones, who is known for extreme statements, went on to accuse the newspaper of seeking to create in the hearts of the citizenry the impression that MPs are enjoying the good life.
He said the newspaper’s decision to publish the bills paid by taxpayers makes it appear that “there is this miasmic capture of the mind.”
The Nation newspaper report exposed that Jones’ share of that monthly bill is $16,683.85.
The minister’s attack on this major Barbados media outlet came at a time when that organisation is going through a staff layoff exercise, which it stated is in an effort to right-size the company in the face of other competing information outlets brought on by technology.
This means that some journalists are among those set to be retrenched.
But Jones appeared so incensed at the publication that he blurted, “they should have had the whole closet cleaned out.”
Though the minister then hastened to add, “I’m sorry to say this because there are some excellent journalists in Barbados, all around” the intent of the attack on the country’s fourth estate was not lost.