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NDP policy about religious groups not dictated – Eustace

NDP policy about religious groups not dictated – Eustace

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The policy of the New Democratic Party (NDP) that no adverse comments should be made in public about religious organizations was not dictated, but was one that was arrived at after much debate.{{more}}

Arnhim Eustace, Leader of the Opposition and President of the New Democratic Party (NDP), while speaking on the NDP sponsored ‘New Times’ radio programme yesterday, Monday, April 23, said that a decision had been made and that he stood by that decision.

“All that we are saying is that we don’t want any adverse comments to be made publicly by persons who are candidates for General Elections in St Vincent representing the New Democratic Party,” Eustace said.

He added that Baptiste took it upon herself that her position in relation to the matter was the correct one.

The issue was raised following comments made by a Shefflorn Ballantyne, a member of the Thusian Seventh Day Adventist Church, to which Baptiste also belongs, about Catholicism during a program on Cross Country radio.

“He (Ballantyne) is at the moment under consideration as a candidate for the NDP for the North Windward constituency,” Eustace explained, adding that although he did not hear the comments made, he was later informed of the nature of the comments, which he said prompted him to contact Ballantyne and inform him that should the matter be made public, he would have to make an apology, especially if he was being considered as a possible candidate.

The NDP president said that he had received telephone calls from two constituents of West St. George who are Roman Catholic who expressed some concern over the comments, which prompted him to call Baptiste.

“And that conversation did not go down well at all,” Eustace said, leaving out the details of what transpired.

This, he continued, heightened his concern as to how a political party should react to matters of this sort.

The issue was brought up at the Internal Strategy Support Committee meeting held on Tuesday, April 17, where he said he put to the floor his concern about attacks being made on churches and that candidates and potential candidates should avoid doing that.

“In every constituency in this country, there are people of all sorts, types of religions – they are entitled to their views and it is not for the NDP or any of its candidates to condemn any religion,” Eustace said, adding that he wanted the policy to be accepted.

And it was agreed to by all the members present at that meeting, except Baptiste, he said.

Eustace said that he subsequently received an email in which Baptiste set out her objection to the decision.

“And it went much further in terms of her condemnation of the decision, including certain insulting language aimed at me personally and some other members,” the NDP president said.

He then called a meeting with some of the senior party members on Wednesday, April 18, he said.

“We discussed the matter, based on the fact that we had come to a decision the day before, and I indicated to them that I will not be able to accept the contents of the letter sent to me,” said Eustace.

He further explained that the action he took was the same as would be taken by any president of any other organization.

“When a member tells you that they will not obey, or agree with or support any decision taken, which we think is in the interest of the party not to condemn any particular religion, then they can’t be candidates going forward because they are not going to follow the rules of the party and certainly I was not prepared to take a chance to have statements made in the Parliament on this matter,” Eustace said.

“All we wanted to do was to protect our party from the adverse results that could come from attacking anybody’s religion and I stand by that,” Eustace said. (DD)

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