The Opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) has rejected the offer for one of its vice-presidents, Dr. Godwin Friday, to be nominated as Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly.
“Dr. Friday will not be accepting any such nomination; let me make that absolutely clear,” Opposition Leader and President of the NDP, Arnhim Eustace, said on his weekly radio programme on Monday.
Prime Minister, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves announced separately on Monday that he had asked Friday to allow himself to be nominated to the position, which became vacant when David Browne demitted office as a senator last month.
Gonsalves said his nomination of the Northern Grenadines representative is “part of the refreshing of the government and of the political system”
He said Friday was surprised by the request.
“I have done so because of my desire to see a greater sense of inclusiveness in the House. … And, as a practical matter, we know that the Opposition has been critical — I don’t agree with their criticism — of the current Speaker (Hendrick Alexander) in this handling of the House,” Gonsalves said at Government House where three new senators — Camillo Gonsalves, Luke Browne, and Jomo Thomas — were announced.
“But clearly, if Dr. Friday accepts the proposal, he would have an opportunity to show how it ought to be done.”
Gonsalves said he had spoken to Eustace, who was “not enthused, … not supportive of the idea.
“He understood what I was seeking to do and said it quite correctly that it should have been done a long time ago and I agree with that, but every idea has its own time … And if something is good to be done, it doesn’t matter when it is being done, it is the goodness of the policy,” Gonsalves said.
He further said he was writing to Eustace “so that one doesn’t feel that there is any … political trickery”.
Gonsalves further said that if Friday rejects the offer, Sen. Thomas will be appointed Deputy Speaker.
“I discussed it with Jomo (Sen. Thomas) and Jomo agreed with me that it was an excellent idea to make the suggestion about Dr. Friday. Why not anyone one else from the opposition benches, I think that Dr. Friday commands that degree of respect across the house and I think he possesses the temperament and the training for that very lofty position of deputy speaker. So I put everything in the public domain,” Gonsalves further said at the ceremony.
But Eustace, speaking on the radio programme, said he listened to Gonsalves carefully when he telephoned about the matter Monday morning.
“… he gave all the reasons why Dr. Friday, in his view, should be the Deputy Speaker, including his competence and knowledge of the rules and so forth, but I told him that is not his decision to make, that is not his business, that is the business of the New Democratic Party,” Eustace said.
“And anyone who we wish to have as Deputy Speaker, we will decide who goes forward. He is not the president of the New Democratic Party, he is the president of the ULP and he is not making any decision on our behalf or even recommendation,” Eustace said.
He further said that he asked Gonsalves what informed the sudden development.
“He wants to be inclusive. Well I said you should have been inclusive long time ago when the Parliament was appointing a Deputy Speaker in 2010. When 600 people were sent home a few months after he got into office [in 2001], there was no talk of inclusion. When NDP people were taken off the public assistance roll, there was no talk of inclusion. It’s always ‘the government is ours’, ‘we own the government’. Now you are talking about inclusiveness,” Eustace said.
He further said that some of Gonsalves’ supporters has describes the proposal as a “masterstroke”.
“Well, his masterstroke is the same as the one he made for the bank, which left us with a debt of 100 million dollars to repay,” Eustace said of the privatisation of the former National Commercial Bank.
“So, the New Democratic Party is not in that. I want to make it absolutely clear. We are not in that at all. We make determinations that are in our own interest in matters of this sort. That cannot be determined by Gonsalves. I will sit down with my colleagues if we want to nominate somebody for a position like that or suggest them,” Eustace said.
“You know, in this country, you can’t be inclusive ten per cent of the time and exclusive ninety per cent of the time. You have to show a track record of inclusiveness if you want to be taken seriously in matters of this sort, and the ULP and Gonsalves have no such track record. So, I want to make it very clear to the public that the New Democratic Party is not interested in that masterstroke,” Eustace said.
Eustace said separately on another radio station on Tuesday that Friday’s position on the matter is the same as his.
Jomo Thomas is expected to be sworn in as Deputy Speaker when Parliament meets on Thursday.