As Parliament was amending the law to lighten drug possession penalties on Friday, the Prime Minister scolded Barbadians for their “addiction” to macaroni pie, pigtails, alcoholic beverages and other “bad habits”.
The PM drew on her own current love for the heavily salted meat and her past love of cigarettes, as she expressed concern that Barbadians continued to be addicted to several unhealthy food choices.
As the Attorney General introduced the Drug Abuse Prevention and Control (Amendment) Bill, she announced that her administration is seeking to introduce a “holistic approach” to the issue of drug use and drug addiction.
“There is an issue with addiction and bad habits in the country. The addiction is not just with cannabis, the addiction is with macaroni pie, the addiction is to pigtail,” said Mottley, who admitted to loving the latter.
Stressing that balance was necessary, Mottley, who quit cigarette smoking some years ago, said she understood the challenges associated with addiction, adding that everyone had a role to play.
She said: “There are people who like liquor, who must have a rum or brandy every day or whisky. There are some who believe that a meal without wine is not a meal.
“The chronic non-communicable diseases, it hurts me . . . the extent to which young Barbadians are more at risk of diabetes now. I suspect there is far more risk there than for most other things in their behaviour, but because it appears to be benign we say ‘let the child eat some food, you always bothering the child about eating greens all the time’, when in truth and in fact all of us in here know that the digestion system needs it.”
Mottley said she has already reached out to the Ministry of Education and was in the process of reaching out to the Ministry of Empowerment and Elder Affairs and the Public Affairs Division in the Ministry of Public Affairs to raise awareness and lead a campaign to “transform how we eat and how we drink”.
She said meetings were held last year and the process had started to bring about some structural changes to social service ministries, but the COVID-19 pandemic made it “difficult to continue”.
But she told the House: “I give this honourable chamber the commitment that this Government will stay focused on changing the structures of our social services, just as we are intended to do with our educational services, and just as we are doing now with our criminal justice system.
“I want to change the structures that we have in our social sector ministry in order to be able to allow them to treat to families as opposed to individuals.
“When you treat to families you have allies; when you treat to the church, the community groups and the cultural groups and sporting groups you have allies.”
Mottley said she believed there needed to be more parental control, saying she was “perhaps more concerned about the extent to which we do not have strong parental education”.
The Prime Minister said she was reaching out to Opposition Leader Joseph Atherley and “all right-thinking Barbadians” who were willing, to help spread awareness and encourage children to make better health decisions, adding that families had a major role to play.
She lamented that children were being given “juice loaded up with sugar all day”.
Mottley declared: “Is this is going to be the first generation where children lead the adults? There are none of us in here who could have told our parents you want to do X, Y or Z and get away with it without consequences.”
The PM gave an assurance that while Government would not be able to eradicate every risk “we will do our best”.
She also singled out the issue of individuals going to prison for non-payment of child support, saying “we need to find a way where that is really the last possible act of the state”.
“We need to introduce civil penalties on a wider range of stuff,” she added, while also expressing concern about “the nastiness” of the country due to illegal dumping, an issue she promised would be addressed head-on.