KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Newly-appointed senator, Dr. Linton Lewis has promised to adhere to “fairness and justice” even as fellow lawyer Prime Minister Dr. Gonsalves cautioned him not to confuse Parliament with the law courts.
“Fairness and justice, Mr. Speaker, are two important principles that I intend to adhere to whilst I sit here as a Member of the House of Parliament,” Lewis — who advocates “meritocracy” — said Thursday shortly after taking the Oath of Allegiance.
“I look forward to the … battle and I hope that I will be able to, with the support of my colleagues, bring a level of discussion and debate to the House of Parliament that will interest not only colleague in the House but assist in the development of St. Vincent and the Grenadines as a whole,” he said.
Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace this week appointed Lewis — who is also chair of the New Democratic Party — to the Senate after Anesia Baptiste’s senatorial appointment was revoked last month.
Lewis had complained to the media about not being consulted when Eustace appointed Baptiste and Vynnette Frederick to the Senate after the 2010 general election.
But he on Thursday thanked God “for giving me the patience and wisdom, knowledge and understanding to be able to weather the political storm outside of Parliament and to present myself in such a way that I became worthy to be a member of this House…
“I would also like to thank the Leader of the Opposition, the Honourable Arnhim Eustace, who, for some strange reason, has had very significant role to play in my life’s progression from since the year 1985 …”
The comments by Lewis, who has lost three consecutive times in the St. George constituencies, came after being congratulated by House Speaker Hendrick Alexander, Eustace and Gonsalves.
“I wish him all the best in all his various endeavours here as a member and expect that he will add to the uplifting of the quality of the debate in this honourable House,” the Speaker said.
“I want to join you in welcoming now Sen. Lewis to the Parliament of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” said Eustace.
“I, too, am of the view that his contribution to the Parliament will be something that will add and make some difference to our deliberations on the various laws, bills, whatever comes before us and I sincerely welcome him at this time,” the former prime minister stated.
“I recognise that we are short of time but I simply wish to indicate very clearly that we on this side of the House are very pleased — I will suspect it is the same on the other side but I can’t speak for the other side — … to welcome him to the Parliament of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Eustace further stated during the comments at the beginning of the meeting, which started one hour late.
Gonsalves, in his comments, said Lewis — who has a doctorate degree in law and is also an accountant — “clearly has the qualifications for membership of the House”.
But Gonsalves did not note Lewis’ academic credentials but the basic requirements set out in the Constitution, including the ability to understand English and not being a bankrupt.
PM weighs in on politics
But the Prime Minister also weighed in on the politics of Lewis’ appointment.
“I think the Honourable Sen. Lewis must have been wondering what was talking his leader so long to bring him to the House,” Gonsalves said, adding, “Even amidst all the congratulations, we have to keep our feet firmly planted on the ground.
“Really for a man who has paid cricket as an opening batsman, one would have expected him to be batting higher up the order,” he said of the former national cricketer and footballer.
Gonsalves said Lewis is ambitious, a quality, according to him, that is necessary “to get along in life”.
He further said the NDP was “wrapped up in dealing with things in the Catholic church” — a reference to statements then prospective NDP candidate Shefflorn Ballantyne made about the Catholic Church last month that lead to an NDP policy Baptiste objected to, which contributed to her being fired.
“… there are two principles in the [Catholic] Church on leader of which he (Lewis) should take note: The first is that once you sing in the choir you can be Pope,” Gonsalves said, adding that many opposition legislators “equally want to be Pope, perhaps more than you (Lewis).
“… Mr. Speaker, the honourable Sen. Lewis has been singing in the choirs for a long time so the papacy is not out of his reach. But I just want to remind him that the ambition inherent in that proposition is levelled by a lovely principle in a beautiful hymn in the church: the good Lord shows his face on he who waits his turn.”
Gonsalves said he wanted to “advise all these things” as he welcomed Lewis to Parliament and siad he had given similar advise to Frederick and Baptiste.
“Among the things I told them, and I am saying it now: you may be a good lawyer but don’t confuse this and the law court.
“This is a very peculiar institution — the Parliament — and it shows up persons in some remarkable ways, positive or negative.
“I expect diligence in preparation and balance in submissions because the people of this country have moved on from a particular type of politics. That is why they elected the ULP (Unity Labour Party) and we are still consolidating the politics of rationality, the politics of commitment, the politics of seriousness, the importance of service, all of these things.
“Some of these things may sound old-fashioned but I want, from my experience, to advise that they be reflected upon. … Welcome my friend and I hope you have a good ride. God bless you,” Gonsalves said.