KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace has defended his decision to appoint two female senators along with shadow ministries for opposition Members of Parliament (MP).
Vynnette Frederick and Anesia Baptiste were appointed opposition senator after the December 2010 general elections.
Dr. Linton Lewis, chair of the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), told a local newspaper that he was not consulted before the appointments were made.
But Eustace told the 36th convention of the NDP on Sunday that the party was doing things differently.
“We have made some decisions which are new. We have appointed two young female senators to the Parliament. That is not an easy thing you know,” he said.
“In the context of our politics, in the context of what is being done to our womenfolk in this country, we are showing our confidence, not only in the young but [also] in the women of our party and that is why we appointed two young female senators,” Eustace said.
Shadow cabinet criticism
He also said he has been criticised for assigning shadow ministerial portfolio to the nine opposition MPs.
“So, you have a government minister over there and we have somebody with a portfolio over here who is a shadow minister,” he Eustace.
“So when we have a bill in Parliament, it is not for me to speak,” Eustace said, noting his shadow portfolio of finance, economic development, and the public service.
“So as I would expect in any democratic society, I will speak first on those matters. But I am asking my colleagues to lead on those matters that come under their shadow portfolio. That is how they mature,” Eustace explained.
“We don’t want one encyclopaedia and eight copybooks. We want eight encyclopaedia, or nine encyclopaedias, as in the case of the New Democratic Party,” Eustace said.
“No one of us can handle every subject. People have training and they bring skills. They are motivated when they speak about certain subjects. I have no problem with them leading the debate in Parliament.
“One minister told me the other day that I am not a leader because I don’t speak first. I say ‘But you are just an idiot’. All that is just foolishness. We have to empower our people so that they perform and when they take the reins of government, they know what they are talking about and what they are doing,” Eustace further stated.
Both Baptiste and Frederick failed in their bid to be re-elected to the NDP executive on Sunday. Baptiste also decline nomination for re-election as assistant secretary general of the party.