Opposition Leader Julian Fraser has denounced celebrations by residents over what he described as legislators’ wings being clipped.
“I know that in several ways, you can look at it as if us [House of Assembly] members that have been elected have had our wings, so to speak, clipped. Those out there who have something against politicians will see it as that — as [though] we had our wings clipped,” Fraser said.
The veteran legislator appeared to be referring to the government’s framework agreement with the United Kingdom to curb a prior system of unfettered and indiscriminate distribution of district allocations by lawmakers in the form of assistance grants.
That agreement had its genesis in the Commission of Inquiry
) report’s recommendations which proposed that, “House of Assembly Members’ Assistance Grants and the Government Ministries’ Assistance Grants in their current form should cease forthwith.” COI
Commissioner Sir Gary Hickinbottom
also concluded that it was highly likely that serious dishonesty may have taken place and said nothing was being done to prevent or discourage such conduct.
I sent you to school!
But Fraser appeared adamant that it was the very ability of legislators to use their own discretion which allowed them to properly assist their constituents.
“May I point out to those people, if they check the record when you go home, you talk to your parents and they will tell you that I sent you to school,” Fraser stated.
He continued: “However I did it – and it wasn’t my money, it was government money that send you to school – I advocated for it. It probably passed through my allocations and whatever the case was.”
Lawmakers have since agreed to review these district allocations, routing assistance through the Social Development Department instead to help improve the government’s efforts at transparency and good governance. But Fraser appeared doubtful of the new system’s likelihood of success.
“Talk to your parents. They will tell you that when they were in the hospital, I helped pay the bills,” he asserted. “It didn’t come from my pocket but it was government allocation that did it. Now, you take that away from us (legislators) and you’re talking about going to social services to get it. Good luck!”
Fraser said he was asked in a recent conversation with Education Minister Sharie de Castro, for his assistance in advocating for funds for students to study abroad. He further explained that this was separate from scholarship funds already allocated by the government.
“Where did you think the monies were coming from before?” Fraser asked rhetorically. “It came from us. That same wing-clipping that people are ‘cha-hooing’ about out there, they’re going to find out that it is not in their best interest.”