KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – The opposition New Democratic Party’s (NDP) West St. George (WSG) Constituency Division voted Wednesday night to revoke the election candidacy nomination of Anesia Baptiste, who party leader Arnhim Eustace fired from the senate last month.
Chair of the constituency division, Louis Thompson, confirmed this to I-Witness News Thursday morning.
The confirmation came after a man, who identified himself as the deputy-chair of the constituency division, spoke of the decision on a radio programme, on which NDP chair Dr. Linton Lewis makes a weekly appearance.
Edwin Charles is deputy chair of the NDP’s West St. George Constituency Division but I-Witness News was unable to independently verify whether it was he who made the announcement.
But Thompson told I-Witness News that while he did not invite Baptiste to the meeting Wednesday night nor did not know if she was invited, “the topic was what is happening in West St. George at this particular time … because of what is happening to Mrs. Baptiste”.
Baptiste was fired from the senate after writing an 11-page letter to Eustace in which she refused to obey an NDP policy forbidding the party’s candidates or prospective candidates from making adverse statements about religion.
“We sat there and we chatted and everyone had their part to play. At the end of it, there was a resolution and the majority voted not for her to be any candidate in any upcoming elections for West St. George on an NDP ticket,” Thompson said.
Asked whether the decision was unanimous — in light of the caller’s comments on radio — Thompson said: “Oh yes. That’s true. It was unanimous.”
He further said that the meeting was in keeping with the constitution of the 37-year-old NDP.
Thompson said that the meeting was advertised on radio and two vans were hired to provide transpiration for constituents.
“This was a meeting for the West St. George Constituency Division and … she (Baptiste) lives in West St. George. It is obvious that we are looking forward because we put it forward,” Thompson said, noting radio announcements of the meeting.
Thompson said that the meeting discussed “different things but zeroed in on the action and the … 11-page letter that [Baptiste] wrote to president [of the NDP Arnhim Eustace]”.
He said that at the time of the interview shortly before 10 a.m. Thursday, Baptiste had not been informed of the decision to revoke her nomination.
“[The meeting] was last night … But, officially, she will be notified by letter or by email or something.”
Asked if the committee approves announcements like the one purportedly made by the deputy-chair on radio, Thompson said:
“He is the deputy chair and the thing is, apparently, he wanted to get it out. But she will be notified.”
Meanwhile, the caller who identified himself as the deputy-chair said that a resolution calling for the revocation of Baptiste’s candidacy was passed and seconded at the meeting.
“After the motion was moved and seconded, there was much debate. Persons expressed the view that the letter she had written to the honourable Opposition Leader — the Honourable Arnhim Eustace — was out of place, rude, disrespectful and furthermore, she used words like ‘I will not follow, I will not obey, I will not recant, that’s who I am, so help me God’, which left no room for further discussion”.
The caller said that the meeting then voted unanimously to revoke Baptiste’s candidacy nomination “albeit that her candidacy was never ratified by the central executive or the central committee of the NDP.
“Without that, it was appropriate that we follow the constitution of the NDP and have her removed in as much as we had voted for her unanimously to be a candidate,” the caller said.
Baptiste informed by a journalist
Meanwhile, Baptiste told I-Witness News that she
“first found out about the decision … from a journalist, as I found it from the media about Arnhim Eustace’s revocation of my senatorial appointment”.
“I had to call one of the members on the division to confirm what I had heard. They didn’t have the courtesy to inform me of their decision,” she said in written answers to questions from I-Witness News.
Asked if she had considered withdrawing her candidacy in light of the NDP policy regarding religion and your objection to it, Baptiste said:
“… The policy of the opposition leader basically removed me as candidate. To that I say, let them remove me because I stand for religious freedom. Let it reveal the nature of that party. They are not good for the governance of SVG.”
Baptiste, however, said that her candidacy was never ratified.
She said that according to the constitution of the NDP, the party’s president is supposed to submit the name of someone who receives “the support of at least three-fourths of the members of the constituency division”.
“However, I received 100 per cent support from members present at the selection meeting. … So since Nov. 17, 2011 when I was selected by more than three-fourths, it was up to the president to call for a central committee meeting for my ratification,” Baptiste said.