NDP boycotts first sitting of Parliament
January 6, 2006

NDP boycotts first sitting of Parliament

There is never a dull moment in the political life of St.Vincent and the Grenadines.

And a perfect demonstration of this was dramatized last week Thursday afternoon at the first session of the eight Parliament of the House of Assembly.{{more}}

Outside the walls of the House of Assembly, excited supporters of the incumbent Unity Labour Party (ULP) cheered members of the Government including their three new senators, Ronald Marks, Rochelle Ford and Richard Williams as they made their way to Parliament. Alongside the ULP faithful stood supporters of the Opposition New Democratic Party (NDP). Their mood however, was one of defiance and disappointment as they booed the Government’s ministers and senators and protested with slogans.

The slogans bore the words: “Why do are yo have to cheat”, “We in Central Kingstown want justice for the Major” and “Mr. Adams should be jailed”.

Initially, the House’s business went about smoothly.

Members of both Government and Opposition were sworn in, Hendrick Alexander elected speaker and Senator Rochelle Ford, Deputy Speaker.

Governor-General Sir Frederick Ballantyne delivered the throne speech and declared the first session of the 8th parliament opened. He used the opportunity to congratulate elected members of both sides of the House for their victories during the 2005 General Elections, as well as the Government and Opposition senators.

Sir Frederick said the people of St.Vincent and the Grenadines expect the Government and Opposition to work together for the good of the country.

He also mentioned that the Opposition’s three elected members of Parliament and the two senators were all vital for the proper functioning of parliamentary democracy.

Sir Frederick said the Government’s major policies constitute a packed and ambitious agenda. He however acknowledged that the Government alone cannot make them successful, the plans also require assistance from the Opposition.

And like the end of a scene in a movie, Speaker Alexander suspended the House for the exit of the Governor General and his wife Sally-Ann, Lady Ballantyne.

Parliament resumed and instantly there was much drama – no Opposition in the House. Five empty seats remained where the Opposition Leader, Arnhim Eustace, Dr. Godwyn Friday, Terrance Ollivierre, and Senators St. Claire Leacock and Daniel Cummings sat just minutes previously and there was great laughter from the gathering that had turned out to witness the ceremony.

Speaker Alexander, reading from a letter issued by the Opposition, announced that the Opposition chose to boycott the rest of the session as a mark of protest against what they claim to be irregularities in the December 7 General Elections. The letter added that the Opposition “hold firm to the view that democracy in this country is under threat and that the ULP administration has no moral authority to govern”.

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves delivering his remarks congratulated the Opposition Leader, his elected members and especially senators Leacock and Cummings despite their absence.

“I heard them speak quite authoritatively in several public forums that they were the duly elected representatives of their respective constituencies. Both the Constitution and the Law…make it very clear that duly elected representatives cannot be a senator,” said Prime Minister Dr. Gonsalves.

He said he was pleased that Senators Leacock and Cummings have recognized in accepting the recommendation from their Leader and the appointment from the Governor General as senators they have proclaimed that they accepted defeat and are not the duly elected representatives.

Prior to Parliament ending a Public Accounts Committee was appointed.