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DLP criticises Gov’t intervention in Oistins Bay Garden controversy

By Jenique Belgrave

 The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) has accused the Government of throwing employees of the National Conservation Commission (NCC) “under the bus” in the recent controversy at the Oistins Bay Garden.

Second vice-president Walter Maloney levelled the charge on Thursday, two days after Acting Prime Minister Santia Bradshaw intervened to reverse the controversial eviction of stall operator Monique Best.

The former president of the National Union of Public Workers also chided the silence of the trade union movement on the matter.

Meanwhile, the DLP’s third vice-president Felicia Dujon called on politicians to stay away from “overseeing the decisions of civil servants”.

The situation that triggered responses from the DLP vice presidents stemmed from Best being locked out of the kiosk from which she ran Shirley’s Food Hut, the business operated by her adopted mother Shirley Roberts for almost three decades before her death in June this year. The NCC had served Best notice to quit by August 31, indicating that she had no legal right to continue renting the kiosk and that the space had been allocated to another vendor.

At a press conference on Tuesday morning, two days after the eviction, Bradshaw staved off a court battle threatened by Best’s attorney, Ralph Thorne SC, by allowing the vendor to stay.

While welcoming the settlement in Best’s favour, Maloney told Barbados TODAY: “What left a very bad taste in my mouth is the fact that you throw the employees of the NCC under the bus by seeking to make them responsible for whatever was taking place.

“The workers at the NCC cannot take it upon themselves to do what was done in Oistins…. Obviously, this would have been a directive from somewhere to do that.”

In announcing the resolution, Minister Bradshaw had acknowledged that Best had not taken the necessary steps, following Roberts’ death, to be allowed to continue operating from the location.

“I think Monique accepts that perhaps in the process of grieving, filling out an application was the farthest thing from her mind and I think we have to accept that. But there is a process and I think going forward, the lesson for NCC is certainly to make sure that we are able to have clear processes that people can understand, appreciate and follow.

“But we have to accept that this is not just commercial; this is about people and their livelihoods and their families that have made the sacrifice to operate in these types of facilities and for that, we [Government] owe it to them as well to reach out,” the acting prime minister said.

Saying that putting any blame on NCC workers was “unfair”, Maloney insisted that the labour movement speak up for their members.

“What strikes me even worse is that both the two major workers’ unions, the NUPW and the Barbados Workers’ Union, will represent the NCC and not nary a word from the two of them to come and defend those workers because basically, they cannot defend themselves.

“Nobody from the NCC can come out in the press and say ‘we did this’ or ‘we did that’, not if they want a job tomorrow. They cannot do it because they will say it is against the rules, so the unions are there to protect their rights and that, to me, is the unfortunate part. They should have been there to protect those workers’ rights,” the veteran trade unionist contended.

Dujon agreed with Maloney that as civil servants, the NCC workers’ ability to carry out their duties and responsibilities should not be affected by political interference.

Accusing Bradshaw of “trying to score political points”, the human rights activist said that in such matters, politicians should “stand aside and allow civil servants to do their jobs” as she insisted that the NCC, Best and her legal representative could have reached a resolution on their own.

“When such matters happen…I am sure that there are units and individuals who have the responsibility to deal with such matters when we have matters of conflict.

“Civil servants have their duty, their responsibility. They are being paid by taxpayers and they have rules and guidelines…and as much as possible, we do not want politicians, in particular, coming to oversee the decisions of civil servants. We don’t want politicians intervening and setting various types of precedence where persons may feel ‘if I have a politician on my side or if my party is in power, I may be able to get what I want without going through the processes’,” Dujon said.

She added that it was important not to encourage this, as other people who do not have these connections require assistance as well.

“So, if you are a government that is caring, be very mindful that you are not representing certain members of society but that you are representing all Barbadians,” the DLP executive member said.

Meanwhile, Maloney lauded Thorne, the Member of Parliament for Christ Church South, for representing his constituent against the Government in the matter.

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