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House Speaker to demit office by this weekend

House Speaker to demit office by this weekend
Jomo Thomas, the Speaker of the House of Assembly

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Jomo Thomas, the Speaker of the House of Assembly will resign from the position by the end of this week.  

Last October, Thomas indicated his intention to resign from his post by the end of the first quarter in 2020.  

And in an interview with I-Witness News on Wednesday night, Thomas disclosed that that time had come. 

“At the last sitting of Parliament, I told both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition that I would demit office at the end of the month,” Thomas said.

He added that he already had the letter of resignation, but “the only reason why I have not turned it in to the House is because Section 103(2) of the Constitution says that the resignation, the intention to demit becomes effective the moment it is received or delivered to the clerk”. 

And he said that by March 1, he will effectively no longer be the Speaker of the House. 

In the interview, which was broadcast on Facebook, Thomas said that the position of Speaker is not one that automatically came to him. He also said that it was a position that he spoke up for and one that he took when it was offered to him. 

He also revealed that it was Sir Vincent Beache, who had recommended him for the position, at the end of the first meeting that the Unity Labour Party (ULP) had after the last General Elections, during which ministerial portfolios were being assigned. 

“Before the meeting wrapped up, I said look, it would be remiss of me if I don’t express my supreme disappointment in not being given a more substantial position in this governing party,” Thomas said. 

He said that it was at that point that Sir Vincent made his suggestion. 

“I didn’t hear the suggestion, but PM leaned over to Sir Vincent and he came back and he said well, you see, why we didn’t put these veterans out to pasture? Sir Vincent is suggesting that you be made the Speaker…Prime Minister asked me whether I would accept that position and I said I will think about it,” Thomas, who is a practising lawyer said. 

The Speaker said it was also at that point that he asked if he could still practice law if he were to take up the position, to which Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves replied in the affirmative.

Thomas disclosed that he had seen the position as a challenge because it was new territory for him and something that he wanted to do his best at, particularly because he had had a chance to look and listen to past speakers and hear what people had to say. 

“I just thought I would go in and try to be true to the standing orders, Constitution, to be fair to all members of Parliament, to be respectful to all members of Parliament and try to make a difference in whatever little way I could,” he said. 

When the lawyer announced his intention to demit the post of Speaker, he had already tendered his resignation as a member of the ULP, of which he was the caretaker for the South Leeward constituency, having lost to New Democratic Party candidate, Nigel ‘Nature’ Stevenson by a narrow margin in the 2015 polls. 

And he said that as Speaker, he has never once seen himself aligned with any party. 

He added that he was the subject of many comments from both the ULP and NDP (New Democratic Party). 

“The greatest joy I had as Speaker is when … both sides would take to the airwaves and condemn me on one action or the other. Not that I relished the condemnation, but I felt, if both sides were taking pot shots at me, it meant that neither side can really say I was in their bosom or in their pocket,” Thomas said. 

He also said that the leadership of the ULP has never suggested that he should perform his duties in a partisan way, but he recalls one major radio personality for the ULP who one told him “if you think you’re gonna go there and be Mr Fair, we’re gonna attack you from the get go and that person attacked me from the get go”. 

Thomas said he is not sure who the government will appoint as Speaker in his place, but expressed confidence that whoever that person is, they will do the people’s will. 

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