Speaker of the House of Assembly, Jomo Thomas, has gone public with what he says is a “discreet, but distinct position” taken by his Unity Labour Party (ULP) to exile him.
“Evidently, real meaning must be given to the proclamation ‘we are family and no one leaves the family’,” Thomas said in his Nov. 24 “Plain Talk” column in The Vincentian newspaper, which he published on his Facebook page five days later.
The piece, entitled “Garifuna in Exile”, was inspired by a trip that Thomas made to Belize last month to celebrate Garifuna Settlement Day there.
Thomas, who became house speaker in 2015, after failing to win the South Leeward seat for the ULP on his first attempt, said the trip to Belize came at a time “when every discernable piece of evidence points to the incontrovertible fact that Unity Labour Party whose leader invited me to join 4 years ago is now settled in the view that it cannot tame, neuter or institutionalize me.
“Therefore, a discreet, but distinct position has been settled on that I must be exiled,” he said.
Thomas, who has been a long-time critical supporter of the ULP, joined the party in 2013 at the invitation of party leader, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, who also appointed him a senator.
“From the moment of my joining, doubts were allowed to fester around my loyalty to the project called labour rather a projection of my long record and experience in defence of the poor and disadvantaged of our country.
“In South Leeward some stalwarts were told not to support me. It was an open secret that many ULP leaders and power brokers preferred me to lose and did nothing to ensure a ULP victory in South Leeward.”
iWitness News has learnt that while Thomas was the ULP candidate in South Leeward in 2015, there had been a number of developments in the campaign that political observers say were intended to ensure that he did not win.
Sources say that the ULP adopted that position after they were convinced that they would take at least eight seats, the minimum required to form government in the 15-member national assembly.
Thomas said that from October 2016, the ULP’s radio station — Star FM — has been turned into “an anti-Jomo tribune”.
He said that the “hollow charge” was that he was opposed to the party’s views, policies and programmes.
“Frank Da Silva, who only yesterday railed against Ralph Gonsalves and ULP and has morphed into a ULP Praetorian Guard, is the designated hatchet [man],” Thomas said of Da Silva, a former member and activist for the main opposition New Democratic Party, who had secretly recorded a private conversation with Gonsalves and played it on radio, much to the displeasure of some staunch supporters of the NDP.
Thomas said that on Dec. 6, 2016 — one year after the general elections — a high ranking party official told him in the presence of other members of the Central executive, “You think Frank done with you. Frank will tear you to the bones.”
He, however, did not name the person who made the comment.
“Frank for his part had warned the nation, when he was an NDP stalwart, that I, rather than Ralph Gonsalves, was the most dangerous man in SVG. Then I was labelled the Bernard Coard of St Vincent,” Thomas said.
Coard is a Grenadian politician who was Deputy Prime Minister in the People’s Revolutionary Government of the New Jewel Movement. In 1979, he launched a coup within the revolutionary government and took power for three days until he was himself deposed.
Thomas said that during the session of Parliament immediately after Opposition Leader Godwin Friday was installed last year December, it was rumoured that opposition senator Shirlan Barnwell instructed him to cut off opposition lawmaker St. Clair Leacock.
Leacock, a vice-president of the NDP who had failed to emerge as the party leader, was at the time engaged in a rambling speech about how hurt he felt by the development.
Some persons listened in anticipation to see if the Member of Parliament for Central Kingstown would announce that he would cross the floor.
Leacock was speaking during the “Congratulations” segment of the sitting, but the length and content of his speech went outside of that ambit and he was, essentially, speaking at the discretion of the Speaker.
Thomas has denied receiving from Barnwell any instructions to cut off or limit Leacock’s presentation.
“This was a dastardly lie, but it gained strong currency to be repeated by some in the ULP leadership,” he said.
Thomas and Barnwell had a years-long intimate relationship, which collapsed on the eve of the 2015 elections.
They are, however, members of the same law firm, Jomo Thomas Chambers.
In the column, Thomas said that things have gotten so bad that during the evening break at the last sitting of Parliament, Sen. Carlos James “stepped [up] to me declaring ‘You are a nobody.’”
“Clearly, everyone has been given the green light to take cheap shots at me. Meanwhile, the anti-progressive, dirty work on Star radio continues unimpeded.
The most disconcerting thing about all this insanity is that no one, except for the politically astute Chrys Ralph, has the courage to speak up and speak out against this self-destructive assault. Evidently, real meaning must be given to the proclamation, ‘We are family and no one leaves the family’,” Thomas said.
The official line being toed by the ULP is that the leadership of the party is pleased with Thomas’ performance as House Speaker, despite the criticism of some rank and file members.
“Look, I know that there are some persons, who think that Jomo — some rank and file members from the ULP think that Jomo — from time to time, appears not firm enough with persons from the NDP, that they take advantage of him and so on. I don’t share that view,” Gonsalves said in response to an iWitness News question at a press conference in mid-November.
The ULP leader spoke at the press conference about the party being a family, but said he would not intervene in the attrition between Da Silva and Thomas.
“Not everybody would have the same view on these things and I am not going to take the invitation of getting involved in whatever controversy has brewed or is brewing between Frank and Jomo.”
Asked at the same press conference if he would accept Da Silva speaking in those same terms about Minister of Agriculture Saboto Caesar or Minister of Economic Development, Camillo Gonsalves — one of whom many believe will become the next leader of the ULP — or any member of his Cabinet, the prime minister said:
“To tell you the truth, one of the things I learn about these matters is not to answer things which are hypothetical.
“You asked me about Jomo’s handling of the House [of Assembly], I give you my view. Frank may well have a different view. But he and I don’t have to have the identical view on every subject and as I told you that the two of them are two comrades whom I value.”