In the spirit of Chatoyer
It is not often over the last two decades or so that we can feel encouraged, if not inspired, by proceedings in the House of Assembly. The first sitting of the 11th Parliament of St Vincent and the Grenadines at least provided some such hope for the future. Granted, Monday’s sitting was just a swearing-in ceremony and not a potentially contentious debate, but at least there were refreshing signs.
Perhaps it had to do with the advent of new Parliamentarians on both sides of the House and the fact that the restricted number of presentations did not leave much room for the regular purveyors of controversy in Parliament to stoke the fires, but whatever the reason, the outcome was certainly positive.
Newly-elected MPs on both sides, the Hon. Orando Brewster for the Government and the Hon. Fitzgerald Bramble from the Opposition each spoke in the spirit of cooperation, sadly lacking in many past parliamentary sessions. The Leader of the Opposition too rose to the occasion declining to give succour to the confrontational elements in his party’s ranks.
The Parliamentary opening not only created history by electing a female Speaker and Deputy Speaker, but also welcomed the presence of two other female Senators. The new Speaker too indicated a commitment to lifting the level of parliamentary debate by proposing a training session for MPs as the first working activity to be held on December 17.
However pride of place must go to the new female Senator on the opposition bench, Senator Shevern John. It is not often that in parliamentary proceedings the ebullient Prime Minister Dr the Hon. Ralph Gonsalves is upstaged, but that certainly was the case on Monday.
Senator John, who replaced lawyer Kay Bacchus-Baptiste as one of the two opposition senators, made a stirring appeal to all parliamentarians to carry out their duties as “brothers and sisters” so as to promote the best interests of the people of this country.
The new senator was a long-standing teacher, but had to resign from the profession in order to contest the North Windward seat. She contested and came close to unseating long-standing MP for the area, Hon. Montgomery Daniel, the new Deputy Prime Minister.
However both are descendants of the Garifuna people who led by Paramount Chief Chatoyer, our only National hero, stoutly defended national sovereignty in the face of British colonial invasion. Senator John made no bones about her pride in her ancestry by letting the house know: “I am a proud Garifuna woman… the first Garifuna woman from North Windward to serve the people of North Windward and by extension the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines”.
She went on not only to identify with her fellow Garifuna MP, Hon. Montgomery Daniel, the victor in the election, but to congratulate him, reminding him, the House, and the public that though “…we are political opponents, we are not enemies..”. She went on to extend a hand of cooperation.
A better backdrop for the work of this parliament and for lifting the level of our politics in St Vincent and the Grenadines cannot be imagined. We urge the Parliamentarians to keep to this high road and to ignore the temptations of those who wish to continue to drag our politics in the gutters.