Speaker of the House of Assembly Jomo Thomas says he will demit the position at the end of this week.
He made the announcement in a wide-ranging video interview with iWitness News, which premiered on Facebook Wednesday night.
In the interview, Thomas said he believes that the government will appoint a female speaker, “Because that’s the new mantra — we’re empowering women”.
Regarding his own departure from the post, Thomas said:
“It’s no secret. I’ve told many, many people who asked me that towards the end of this month, I would demit the office of the speaker.”
Thomas announced to the media last October that he would leave the post by the end of the first quarter of 2020.
He also announced then that he had resigned from the ruling Unity Labour Party on whose behalf he contested the South Leeward seat in the December 2015 general elections.
In that two-way race, Thomas, who was a ULP senator from August 2013 to December 2015, lost to Nigel Stephenson of the main opposition New Democratic Party.
On Monday, Thomas told iWitness News that at the last meeting of Parliament — the Budget Debate held Feb. 3 to 6 — he told both the Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves and Leader of the Opposition Godwin Friday that he would demit office at the end of this month.
“I have the letter of resignation,” Thomas told iWitness News, adding that he had not handed it in as yet because the Constitution says the resignation becomes effective the moment it is delivered to the Clerk of the House of Assembly.
He said he intends to give the resignation letter to the clerk, “sometime before the end of this week”.
“By the first of March, Jomo Thomas will no longer be the Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” he said.
Thomas told iWitness News that while he had “absolutely no idea at all” who the next speaker would be, he is confident that this successor will do a good job.
“And I am sure that whoever it is — well, I’m not sure. I would like to express confidence that whoever the government selects, and whoever becomes elected, as the next speaker would do the people’s will, and serve [in a manner] befitting of the position of the Speaker of the House of Assembly of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
Asked who he thinks is the person best suited or most qualified for the job, Thomas said:
“I haven’t given it that thought. If I understand the mind of the political leadership in St. Vincent, and I think I have an inkling, I think we’re going to have a woman speaker,” he said.
“Because that’s the new mantra, we’re empowering women,” Thomas added when asked why he was of that view.
He, however, told iWitness News that he believes the government will not make more of a partisan political calculation over suitability or competence.
He said: “I think in leadership’s mind, a decision will be made to combine all of those. I don’t think the leadership wants a narrowly partisan person at the speaker. In fact, I think, having gone through the last two experiences, the former speaker, Hendrick Alexander and myself, the leadership would want to have somebody probably who straddles between both of us.”
Thomas said that Alexander, who was speaker from 2001 to 2015, made the correct decision 90% of the times but allowed himself to become embroiled in exchanges with MPs.