A female Speaker of the House of Assembly has been appointed for the first time in the history of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Lawyer Rochelle Forde was sworn in as Speaker yesterday during the first session of the 11th Parliament and swearing in ceremony of members of the House of Assembly.
The new Speaker was nominated by Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, who said he had sought not only Forde’s permission, but also the entire government side of Parliament.
Following a vote among the members of Parliament, it was determined that Forde, a former senator and Deputy Speaker, received 14 of 22 votes.
“Today, with a spirit of gratitude, I thank you for my election to this office of Speaker and the kind words expressed. I am humbled that by your actions, my name will be etched in the historical archives as the first female Speaker in the House of Assembly in St Vincent and the Grenadines,” Forde said in Parliament yesterday.
Another woman, Kay Bacchus-Baptiste was also nominated for Speaker of the House by Opposition Leader, Dr Godwin Friday.
Bacchus-Baptiste, a lawyer and former senator received 8 votes.
Ashelle Morgan, one of three new senators on the government side was nominated for the position of Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly, following Forde’s appointment.
She took her oath immediately after the opposition leader indicated that he did not wish to nominate anyone for the position.
“Indeed, this occasion is made doubly special for our nation as in one meeting of the house, two entries in history annals are made. With the election of Senator Ashelle Morgan as Deputy Speaker, it will be the first time during the same session that both the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker are women,” Forde said.
She noted that while the day calls for celebration, what holds more importance is a Parliament that is exemplary in the conduct of its affairs and one that exhibits a maturity commensurate with its years of existence.
The newly elected Speaker said that this country’s Parliament has performed creditably but still has a long way to go in some instances.
Forde also said that both she and the people of this nation are looking forward to “healthy, constructive, lively debate fused with moments of levity”.
But she noted that this must be done within the parameters of the standing orders and the confines of decency.
“What a distasteful irony it would be if Parliament, the lawmaking body of our nation fails to follow its own rules. Thankfully, I comfortably rest in the confidence and ability of you, the members, secure in the knowledge that such an irony would not disturb this august body,” she said.
This nation’s first female Speaker also urged parliamentarians to “not make the mistake of trying to resurrect an old, misguided stereotypical myth which in its folly somehow equated a particular gender with weakness”.
“Happily, as demonstrated here today on both sides of the aisle, that theory continues to be debunked,” Forde said.