Vincentian attorney and former government minister, Rene Baptiste was today sworn in as a government senator, ahead of the passage of the government’s $1.33 billion fiscal package for 2022.
Baptiste replaces Senator Rochard Ballah, who was among eight government ministers who tested positive for COVID19 infection, which caused interruptions in this week’s Budget debate and consequent suspension until today, January 14.
Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves’ decision to appoint Baptiste as senator allows for the government to have eight members in the House of Assembly, which constitutes a quorum and therefore gives government the necessary numbers to pass the Appropriation Bill, even without the presence of the Opposition in the House.
“When I received the call to service, I was a bit silent and then I told the Leader of Government Business in this honourable house, the Honourable Prime Minister; certainly. He then asked if I was tested and I had been tested. I said Monday, I was tested. I’m negative and I planned to take a second test today,” the newly appointed senator said some time after taking her oaths in Parliament today.
She also disclosed that she was free of COVID infection, having negative on both PCR and rapid antigen tests this morning.
Baptiste has been practicing law since 1976 and operates her own law firm, Baptiste and Co in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
She joined active politics in 2000 and successfully secured the West Kingstown seat on a ULP ticket in the 2001 General Elections.
The veteran politician first served as the Minister of Tourism and Culture from 2001 to 2005 and then as minister of Urban Development, Culture, Labour and Electoral Matters from 2005 to 2010, when she subsequently retired from active politics.
And on January 1, 2011, she was awarded the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) by the Queen for her work in Law, International Finance, Culture and Politics in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Baptiste is also currently serving her third consecutive term as the Speaker of the OECS Assembly.
The appointed government senator thanked the Prime Minister for considering her to continue to give service in the interest of the citizens of this nation.
“Sometimes , Madam Speaker, things will happen and you have to be like a good soldier, always ready when called upon to give service and to do the best in the circumstances,” Baptiste said, while adding that she was looking forward to her time in the House, to participate in the debate “and be able to bring to bear the experience that I have had almost 10 years serving in an elected capacity as a representative of the people and also as a senior member in Cabinet, to be able to give my advice to my fellow member of Parliament”.
She complimented and congratulated finance minister Camillo Gonsalves on “the excellent Budget” that he presented on Monday afternoon.
Baptiste expressed hope that by sitting in Parliament, she will be able to take a closer look at specific matters that are of interest to her and make a short contribution.