By Kenton X. Chance
Lawyer, political scientist and four-time Member of Parliament for the Northern Grenadines, Godwin Friday will soon be sworn in as Leader of the Opposition in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, after garnering the support of his colleagues in a vote on Thursday.
Governor General Sir Frederick Ballantyne was on Thursday sent a letter informing him of the development, as well as a communiqué in which Arnhim Eustace formally resigned as Leader of the Opposition.
The development comes just two days after Eustace, who has been leading the NDP since October 2000 and became Leader of the Opposition in March 2001, told the NDP’s central committee that he is stepping down from both posts.
It was widely speculated that Friday, who, along with MP for the Southern Grenadines, Terrance Ollivierre, were elected in March 2001, making them the longest-serving opposition MP after Eustace, would have defeated the other two contenders for the position — MP for Central Kingstown and fellow NDP vice-president, St. Clair Leacock and his West Kingstown colleagues, Daniel Cummings.
Both Leacock and Cummings were elected to Parliament in December 2010 after serving as senators.
Friday confirmed in an interview with CARIBUPDATE NEWS on Thursday, that he has won the support of his colleagues to become opposition leader.
He said he is “delighted always to serve”, adding that the selection process has been “very enlightening and rewarding”.
“I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House when the appointment is formalised by the Governor General, which will be soon,” Friday said.
Sources close to the NDP had told iWitness News on Tuesday that a new Opposition Leader would be in place by Friday.
The incoming opposition leader thanked his colleagues “for the confidence they place in me” adding that NDP lawmakers are pledging to continue to work on behalf of the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“That’s why we are in the Parliament,” he said, adding that it will be “big shoes to fill” coming on the heels of Eustace.
“But I believe we have the potential to rise to the [occasion].”
He said the general approach under his stewardship as opposition leader is the make the government accountable, noting that the debates of the Estimates of Income and Expenditure and the Budget for 2016 are coming up soon.
Friday said those debates are always a challenge and the opposition has always been asking that the Estimates reflect the current conditions in the country.
He said the Ralph Gonsalves-led Unity Labour Party administration has always been presenting “this sort of grand estimates without any funds to deal with it.
“That has always been a challenge for us and the budget coming up,” he said.
He said that opposition MPs will also address general issues in their constituencies and each member will have their own concerns to deal with and they will pursue them vigorously.
Friday said opposition lawmakers have always put the interest of the people first, adding that they will be guided by the concerns of the people and make sure that the government is held to account.
While Friday has been voted in as leader of the opposition, he still has to face the party’s convention on Nov. 27, when delegates will elect a new president to replace Eustace.
Friday said he is in that race as well, noting that while that is a different office from leader of the opposition, it has been the NDP’s stance to have both positions united in one person.
“And so, therefore, having accepted the leadership of the opposition, I am also going to put my name in for leadership of the party,” Friday said, adding that he is hoping to prevail in that race as well.
“I am asking for the support of my colleagues and I am reaching out to the delegates and I am sure whomever else is contesting for the position will be doing likewise and we will have an open and democratic process for the selection of the president of the party and I hope to prevail. I believe I will prevail there.”
Friday responded to critics who say he is a not a fighter, telling them to look at what he has achieved in terms of the goals that he has set for himself.
“It is not a matter of demeanour. It is a matter of results. And I believe that I produce the result and I have and can do so,” he said.
He added: “I have done so for my constituency, I have done so in my own personal life and will continue to do so for the country. I believe that I can deliver a better standard of living for the people of this country, a brighter future for the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and they would just have to watch me.”
Friday paid tribute to Eustace, saying his legacy is “one of true statesmanship; dedication to country.
“As you know, he has served in the public service. He is a national and a regional public servant. This is a person who has given his life to public service and people cannot underestimate the contribution he has made. And when he steps back from the stage, that is when, as they say, you would truly appreciate the contribution he has made.”
He said the leadership and supporters of the NDP — which has been in opposition since March 2001, after 17 years in government —
owe Eustace “a great debt of gratitude for keeping this party together and viable.
“It is not an easy thing to do it for 16 years in opposition and he has done so and that is a great accomplishment,” Friday said.
“I think that his example as being a selfless public servant, for being somebody who is committed to the public good, that is an example that I think a lot of people should know about, young people, in particular, should aspire to emulate and I really take my hat off to him for that.”
In addition to being an NDP vice-president, Friday is the party’s shadow minister of tourism, electoral matters, and foreign, diaspora and legal affairs.
He holds a Bachelor of Arts in history and political science from the University of Waterloo, Canada and a Bachelor of Laws Degree from Queen’s University, Canada.
He also holds a Master’s in history from the University of Waterloo, Canada and a doctorate in political studies from Queen’s University, Canada.