TAIPEI, Taiwan:- The opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) says it will support an outspoken public servant against whom disciplinary proceedings have begun for criticizing the Dr. Ralph Gonsalves government in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).
Anesia Baptiste, Communication Manager at the Ministry of Tourism, has been slapped with 16 charges relating to comments she made during last year’s Constitution Referendum campaign, in her newspaper column, and on radio and television.
Baptiste, who says she hopes to be the country’s first female prime minister, spoke at several “Vote No” events, sponsored by the NDP, at which she encouraged Vincentians to vote against Gonsalves’ Unity Labour Party (ULP) in the upcoming elections.
She has until March 2 to respond to the charges, which say her comments were “likely to bring the public service into disrepute” and were “prejudicial to the proper administration of government business”.
Leader of the Opposition and NDP head Arnhim Eustace on Wednesday asked if similar actions were being taken against other public officers who spoke on behalf of the government-sponsored “Yes” campaign.
Eustace said Baptiste, 29, has made a “tremendous contribution” to the country, noting her “role” during the constitution debate and Vincentian society in general.
“I want to know whether a number of the other people who were on the platform for the ULP [would] have charges too. But I say one thing here … the New Democratic Party will take action on this matter,” Eustace said.
Baptiste is being called out because she “publicly criticized major government policies and personalities, in particular the government foreign policy”.
She is also accused of showing support “so strident as to be seen to be personally pushing an agenda of individuals in an opposition party”.
The charges say she also accused Gonsalves of “autocratic and coercive behaviour … recklessly and improperly making unwarranted and unsubstantiated accusation of impropriety” against him, saying that he holds “communist ideologies” and likened his government to a “communist regime”.
Baptiste told I Witness-News on Thursday that the charges were “unfounded” and she would defend herself.
She said that she while she was critical of the ULP she had not done anything that hinders the administration of the work of the Ministry of Tourism. (Follow I Witness-News on Facebook)
“I am not bound to support party opinions, though it is the party in government. I have a duty to my conscience and free political opinion and expression while I serve the state and people of SVG,” she said.
She said that some of the charges resulted from her defense of her Thusian Institute for Religious Liberty against claim made in the ULP’s newspaper column.
“[The ULP was] charging us with being theocratic and saying we want to establish our religion as a state religion. I actually exposed this in my TV programs and articles, condemning it as spreading falsehoods,” Baptiste said.