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Anesia Baptiste blasts Arnhim Eustace’s policy in tough letter

Anesia Baptiste blasts Arnhim Eustace’s policy in tough letter

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A policy, recently articulated by Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace, makes former Opposition Senator Anesia Baptiste fearful that Eustace will be a danger to Vincentians’ rights and freedoms should he become Prime Minister.{{more}}

Baptiste is also questioning whether there was any hypocrisy in the policy, which she said states “no candidate or potential candidate (of the Party) should make any public statement that is averse to any religion.”

Eustace articulated the policy at a meeting of the New Democratic Party’s Strategy Committee on Tuesday, April 17, 2012, a letter written by Baptiste said. According to Baptiste, Eustace also threatened to take action against those who do not adhere to the policy, no matter who that person is.

Eustace’s articulation of the policy was apparently prompted by comments made by potential candidate for the NDP in the North Windward constituency Shefflorn Ballantyne, during

a programme on Cross Country Radio on Saturday, April 7, 2012.

Ballantyne, commenting on stories which had recently appeared in a local newspaper about the alleged establishment of a satanic cult here, remarked that there is a strong level of hypocrisy, in the group being branded a cult. According to Ballantyne, the characteristics of the group, as alleged in the newspaper, are shared by the Roman Catholic Church, which is an accepted institution in society.

The comments made by Ballantyne, who is a member of the Thusian Seventh Day Adventist Church, to which Baptiste also belongs, seem to have drawn the ire of some members of the NDP, including Party Vice President and MP for Central Kingstown St Claire Leacock.

Baptiste described the position taken against Ballantyne as unfair and said the policy went against the Constitution of St Vincent and the Grenadines, which protects the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens, including that of religious liberty.

She also questioned the implications of Eustace “daring” to limit the scope of members’ freedoms.

“And tell me sir, how will you guarantee these freedoms with their scope constitutionally, if you take governance in SVG, when, now while in Opposition, you dare to limit the scope of your members and candidates’ legitimate freedoms?”

The former senator also made reference to what she called “critical comments” made by members of the NDP about the Christian Council, Methodist Minister Reverend [Victor] Job and others.

“Will such commentary be outlawed now by this policy of yours, sir? I am sure there would have been religious persons who were offended at the party’s criticisms. Where was the policy against such then?” she asked.

“The way this matter is being handled makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. It reeks of discrimination based on a level of bias against Ballantyne,” Baptiste stated.

Describing the policy taken by Eustace as “backward and debilitating” for the NDP, Baptiste questioned why policy positions had not been taken when complaints were made of other candidates’ public behavior.

“I was particularly referring to calls I have received complaining about Hon. Leacock’s behavior in public with a woman who is not his wife and also the complaints against Lauren Baptiste’s (potential NW candidate) public behavior regarding his female partner. I believe you have received these complaints also. There are other complains too, such as about upset and confusion in East St. George between and among former council member, the current candidate and supporters. Has any investigation been done into these things? Or is there no need for any? Will there be policy positions dictated on these issues also? Will they be brought into similar meeting like today, in each person’s absence, like what was done today also? Or do they not hurt the party? How far are you prepared to go, sir? These things warrant attention. Is there unfair discrimination when it comes to Ballantyne? Why single out his innocent statement for address? Is there hypocrisy? It seems it would be better if Ballantyne had stoned a church like another candidate and nothing would be done about it.” Baptiste said.

The former Senator said, for the policy to have come from Eustace, the Leader of the Opposition and the President of the NDP, who aspires to become Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, is “disappointing, unacceptable and leaves much to be desired. I fear that if you are taking such a position now in Opposition, you will be a danger to Vincentians’ rights and freedoms as leader of government. It is in fact the policy position that you dictated today that will hurt the party’s position of getting into office.

“And if the NDP really holds policies like this it will do no differently from the ULP in persecuting persons for their rights and freedoms,” Baptiste’s letter said.

(See Letter on Pages 20 and 21)

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