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Eustace’s NDP colleagues pay tribute

Eustace’s NDP colleagues pay tribute
RETIRING PARLIAMENTARIAN and former leader of the NDP Arnhim Eustace (centre) with other NDP parliamentarians. From left - Godwin Friday, Roland ‘Patel’ Matthews, Terrance Ollivierre, Nigel Stephenson, Israel Bruce and Daniel Cummings

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PARLIAMENTARIANS ON THE opposition side of the House of Assembly paid tribute to Arnhim Eustace, the parliamentary representative for East Kingstown at yesterday’s sitting of Parliament, praising him for his dedicated service to his constituents and the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

With elections slated for November 5 and Parliament being dissolved today, October 9, this week’s sitting was Eustace’s last as the representative for East Kingstown.

The politician succeeded Sir James Mitchell as the leader of the New Democratic Party and served briefly as this country’s prime minister from October 2000 to March 2001, when the NDP was defeated in the General Elections by the Unity Labour Party.

After 15 years as the opposition leader and president of the NDP, he handed over leadership to Dr Godwin Friday in 2016.

“I wish Mr Speaker to congratulate him on the sterling service that he has given to this parliament, to this country – 1998 he entered this honourable house, 22 years as a parliamentarian, successful candidate for the New Democratic Party,” Friday said of the veteran parliamentarian at Thursday’s sitting.

The opposition leader said Eustace served with distinction in his previous roles as a minister of finance and prime minister of SVG.

He also described the East Kingstown representative as an exceptional public servant, whose life has been dedicated to serving the people of this country. “As the youngest permanent secretary in this country, serving governments to the best of his ability, for the benefit of all Vincentians with professionalism, competence, dedication to service,” Friday said.

He proffered that “these are hallmarks of the honourable Arnhim Eustace. It’s an example Mr Speaker, for all of us and it’s an example for young people who feel that public service may not be a thing for them but to understand the importance of having people of ability, integrity and commitment to give all of that in the service of our country”.

Major St Clair Leacock, the parliamentary representative for Central Kingstown said Eustace, very early in life, established himself as a “no nonsense” young man.

He added that it was no surprise then that he distinguished himself as the country’s youngest permanent secretary.

Leacock noted that it was because of Eustace’s dedication and hard work that the NDP was able to increase the opposition’s presence in Parliament from three to seven representatives.

“In my limited political experience, there will be few political leaders that would be able to argue that they have been more robust and demonstrative in opposition politics, than Mr Eustace has been – beyond the shadow of a doubt; bold and firm in principle in his quest for constitutional rule and democratic traditions,” he said.

And Leacock said he salutes Eustace earnestly for his dedication, commitment to the principles of the NDP, to decency and honesty in best democratic practices and for nurturing and sustaining the institution for the NDP.

“Those of us who have the privilege to serve today and into the future…will certainly be guided by his fortitude and resilience,” he said.

Other members on the opposing side of the House including Daniel Cummings, the parliamentary representative for West Kingstown, Terrence Ollivierre, parliamentary representative for the Southern Grenadines, Senator Kay Bacchus-Baptiste and Senator Israel Bruce also rose to pay tribute to Eustace.

Eustace has served as the parliamentary representative for East Kingstown since 1998 and he was the only member of the NDP to retain a seat on mainland St Vincent in the 2001 General Elections.

He will be succeeded by Fitz Bramble as the NDP’s candidate for East Kingstown in the November 5, 2020 General Elections.

“I’ve listened attentively to the comments made by various members of this house in relation to my service of this parliament. I am pleased with the number of comments that were made and the nature of those comments,” Eustace said following the many tributes given to him.

The parliamentarian said that his one regret was not having his family members and one or two of his supporters present at what was more than likely his last sitting of Parliament.

He said he had made the request for those persons to be present at Thursday’s sitting but his request was denied by the staff of the House.

“I am deeply disappointed in that, Mr Speaker, in that decision. They are the ones who bear the brunt of all that we face and I take very strong objection to the fact that that they are not allowed to come here, four or five people who represent my family and close supporters of the New Democratic Party in East Kingstown. I would have liked them to be here, at this, my last sitting in Parliament,” Eustace said.

Earlier this year, the House of Assembly initiated COVID-19 protocols for sittings of Parliament allowing only parliamentarians to be present in the chamber.

Following Eustace’s comments, Speaker of the House, Carlos James said the staff was made aware of the request to have members in the public gallery but it was denied as the House must adhere to protocols which allow for social distancing.

He added that he was “not aware of whether or not this was the last sitting of the House” so he was not certain why farewell tributes were being given at the particular time.

James, who served as senator on the Government’s side of the House before being appointed as Speaker earlier this year, said there were members on that side who would perhaps be sitting for their last time as well and would’ve wanted their families to be present as well.

However, the Speaker said that given the situation, those requests would also have been denied by the staff of the House of Assembly.

Some hours after the sitting of Parliament, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves announced that General Elections will be held on November 5, 2020 and Parliament will be dissolved today, October 9. Nomination Day is Tuesday, October 20.