Opposition Leader defends dismissal of senator

“In the next few days, I will announce who I recommend as the next senator to replace Miss Baptiste.” — Eustace

Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace (File photo by Oris Robinson).

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace on Monday defended his decision to fire Anesia Baptiste from the senate, saying her decision not to abide by the New Democratic Party’s (NDP) policy of not making adverse comments about citizens’ religions was unacceptable.

“All we wanted to do was protect our party from the adverse results that could come from attacking anybody’s religion and I stand by that,” Eustace said during his weekly appearance on the NDP’s radio programme.

And while he did not say so explicitly, Eustace suggested that the NDP would not accept Baptiste as a candidate for future elections unless she changes her position.

“… as president of this party, and I would expect that any president of any organisation, 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,” Eustace said.

The NDP’s West St. George constituency council last November unanimously selected Baptiste as the party’s candidate for that constituency in the next general election — constitutionally due in 2015.

“And certainly, I was not prepared to take the chance of having statements made in the … Parliament, on this matter because she has said clearly that she will not follow or obey and she takes her instructions only from God,” said Eustace of Baptiste, who said in a 11-page, 5,000-word letter to him “… you, Mr. Eustace, are not and will not be allowed to play God to me”.

Eustace said that of the 18 people who attended the NDP Strategy Committee meeting last Tuesday, Baptiste was the only one who objected to the policy.

“So Miss Baptiste takes it upon herself that only she alone and her position in relation to this matter is the correct one,” he said.

The discussion about the NDP’s position on religion grew out of statements Shefflorn Ballantyne — a potential NDP candidate for North Windward — made on a radio programme on April 7 about the Catholic Church.

Ballantyne — who along with Baptiste are members of the Thusian Institute for Religious Freedom Inc. — accused Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves of being hypocritical in comments he made about a religious group, which some citizens have described as a “cult”.

Ballantyne said that Gonsalves should also condemn the Catholic Church, because it has similar belief as the religious group.

Eustace was disturbed by Ballantyne’s comments and asked him to explain them.

Ballantyne, according to Eustace, said that he did not call the Catholic Church a cult but had said that Gonsalves was hypocritical in his comments.

Eustace, however, was still unsatisfied with Ballantyne’s comments and told him that if he is a potential candidate for the NDP and the issue becomes public, he might have to apologise.

“I don’t think he was too pleased with that,” Eustace said of his conversation with Ballantyne.

He said that a few days later, two Catholic constituents of West St. George telephoned expressing concern about Ballantyne’s statement.

Eustace then telephoned Baptiste about the constituents’ concerns.

“… that conversation did not go well at all,” Eustace said, adding that while he would not comment “too much” about the exchange, “It only heightened my concern on this matter of how we, as a political party, should react on matters of this sort.”

At the meeting of the NDP’s Strategy Committee, — which comprises parliamentarians, members of the executive, and past NDP parliamentarians — Eustace raised his “concern about attacks being made against churches”.

He said he told the meeting that candidates, in particular, should avoid making adverse statements about religious groups.

“In every constituency in this country, there are people of all sorts, all types, of religion. They have their right to their views and it is not for the New Democratic Party or its candidates to condemn any church and, therefore, I wanted that accepted,” Eustace said of his proposal at the meeting.

According to Eustace, he received an email from Baptiste Wednesday morning in which she “clearly set out her objection to the decision we had arrived at and went much further in terms of her condemnation of the decision, including some insulting language aimed at me personally and maybe some other members…”

Former senator Anesia Baptiste (Photo: Oris Robinson).

Eustace held a meeting of senior members of the NDP to discuss the development Wednesday afternoon.

“I indicated to them that I would not be able to accept the contents of the letter which was sent to me and as far as it relates to the question of the decision we took the day before … not to condemn any particular church.”

Eustace read from the April 17 letter in which Baptiste outlined her objection to the policy and raised other concerns — including about the public behaviour of a senior member of the NDP with a woman who is not his wife and a potential candidate and his female partner.

“All 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, … about people’s religion. And I stand by that,” Eustace said in reiterating the policy decision taken on Tuesday.

After the talks with the senior members of the NDP Wednesday afternoon, Eustace instructed Governor General Sir Frederick Ballantyne to revoke Baptiste’s senatorial appointment.

On Friday, according to Eustace, his secretary informed Baptiste, sometime after 9 a.m. — by telephone and Facebook — that there was a letter at the NDP headquarters for her.

In the meantime, the Governor General’s office had also written to Baptiste and sent the letter to the NDP headquarters but also called her home to inform her that the letter was there.

Eustace said the letter was not collected until 3 p.m. Friday, four hours after he read on radio his letter to the Governor General requesting the revocation of Baptiste’s appointment.

“As president of the New Democratic Party, I have taken a decision of writing the governor General and seeking Miss Baptiste’s removal as a senator, forthwith. The Governor General has done just that in his own letter to her, which he has copied to the Prime Minister, to the Speaker of the House, and to the Clerk of the House of Assembly,” Eustace said.

“I stand by that (decision). In the next few days, I will announce who I recommend as the next senator to replace Miss Baptiste,” Eustace said.

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19 thoughts on “Opposition Leader defends dismissal of senator

  1. You are GREAT Mr. Eustace!

    Posted by L Sutton | April 24, 2012, 06:48

    Posted by F.U.D.Z. | April 24, 2012, 07:28
  3. It’s good to finally get a handle on the circumstances surrounding the release of Anesia Baptiste. I was getting she said he said and it was not allowing me to make a personal judgement on the situation.

    I am an admirer or Anesia. I think she has what it takes to make it to the top. I have said this long before she was in politics. Concerning what transpired to cause the rift between her and the leader of the Opposition, Arnim Eustace, I think both sides overreacted and blew this way out of proportion.

    What Ballantyne said was a normal response to his religion being accused as being a cult while another religion with the same practice, is embraced. (I do not know what beliefs are held by the Thusian Institute for Religious Freedom). If what Ballantyne and Anesia are saying is the truth, then it’s a definite bias on the part of Ralph Gonsalves. One should also note that the Catholic Church is held in high esteem throughout the world.

    Eustace is correct in not allowing any party member to opine negatively on matters concerning religion. The blow back would spell death to the NDP if he allows it. As a party representative whose primary concern are for the people of St. Vincent, Anesia should have apologised immediately. It wouldn’t mean she would have to change her beliefs that her religion was wrongfully painted. It’s all about public relations. The fact that she failed to do so could come back to haunt her in her aspirations.

    Posted by Enigma | April 24, 2012, 08:01
    • @Enigma I TOTALLY AGREE WITH YOUR POSITION…I have written several comments on various sites and on face book on this issue, with a varying degree of reservation. On one hand I can understand Mr Eustace’s position, on the other hand; I am wondering if Eustace could have handled the situation differently…in all honesty, I think he acted in haste.

      Lets be clear, Anesia IS DEAD WRONG IN THE MANNER SHE WROTE THAT LETTER…however, wiser heads could have prevailed…here is what I wrote on another site:

      All the NDP had to do was to issue a statement RENOUNCING THE COMMENTS OF BALLANTYNE. And behind closed doors tell Mr Ballantyne to make a public apology for said comments or he CANNOT BE A MEMBER OF THE NDP.

      Likewise, call in Ms Baptiste read the riot act to her and give her ANOTHER CHANCE TO STEP BACK FROM HER POSITION. Look, I maybe wrong, but I have a feeling if Mr Eustace had threatened Anesia with the dismissal of her senatorial position; she would have backed down…I do not believe the thought of losing her Senatorial seat ever crossed her mind, so deluded she was in her own arrogance. I think if this situation was given the weekend to simmer and for folks to come down from their respective pedestal; I do not believe the NDP would have been in this BACCHANAL. Eustace called the Governor General in a matter of hrs upon receiving Anesia’s email…maybe it just my way of thinking and personality, but I would not have reacted in this rather hasty manner. I would have exhausted all avenues first before I pulled the trigger. I want to say this, I do belive there are some folks in the NDP that WANTED TO GET RID OF ANESIA..AND THIS WAS THE PERFECT OPPORTUNITY TO DO SO..
      I think Anesia talent deserves a SECOND CHANCE! Yes the tone of the letter could be deemed disrespectful; I would say petulant, same difference right? Lol…[IMMATURITY IS ANESIA’S BIGGEST ISSUE] but given the dearth of quality candidates out there unwilling to step up the plate…I am saying, that Anesia deserves a CHANCE TO GET HER ACT TOGETHER.

      Again I may be totally wrong on this…but I believe with time spent in the senate, she would have come around to the idea that her religious affiliation and dogma is an obstacle to her upward mobility in the political environment. And given her ambition to be PM, OFFERED A SECOND CHANCE, I THINK SHE WOULD HAVE GRABBED IT WITH BOTH HANDS.


      Posted by Saadiss | April 24, 2012, 19:04
      • “All the NDP had to do was to issue a statement RENOUNCING THE COMMENTS OF BALLANTYNE. And behind closed doors tell Mr Ballantyne to make a public apology for said comments or he CANNOT BE A MEMBER OF THE NDP”.

        In a nutshell right there, Saadiss. This happens all the time in various organizations, whether political, sports of religious. A member runs off at the mouth and say things that do not fit the organization’s policy and the immediate response is renouncing the statement after. Other measures as listed above could then be take up to and including demotion or dismissal. The main thing is that proper protocol is followed and not a hot headed reaction.

        Posted by Enigma | April 25, 2012, 10:13
  4. Thank you Mr Eustace for your explanation.

    Posted by Peter | April 24, 2012, 08:04
  5. Mr. Eustace and the NDP’s position on the dismissal of Ms Baptiste as an NDP Senator, based on her very own admissions and attitude in her letter, were justifiable and correct.
    One does not need superior intellect and/or vision to conclude from the letter that Ms Baptiste had already forfeit her own appoint, by the very nature and tone of her words.
    Consider. “I do not at all agree with the policy position you dictated (sic) today”.
    “I do not at all support the policy position you dictated today”.
    “I will not follow or obey it…”
    “I cannot and will not recant. Here I stand. I can do no other. So help me God.”
    Consider also, that other members present at the meeting accepted the decisions, Ms Baptiste being the only dissenting voice.
    How does her behavior tie in with her democratic convictions?
    I for one ‘am looking forward to her forthcoming resignation from the party.
    She had better not recant.
    She had better make her stand.
    She had better or, “So help me God…”

    Posted by Knight | April 24, 2012, 09:56
  6. read “appointment”

    Posted by Knight | April 24, 2012, 10:39
  7. Eustace wanted to fire her all along. He knew that members of his party were supporting Anesia to be leader, something that he never would have allowed to happen.

    Posted by no-nonsense | April 24, 2012, 10:43
  8. Hey Peter, the people who were asking where you were when this story broke, i bet you won’t see them commenting on this story. i wish someone could post the presentation of Mr Eustace, the poise, the composure, the honesty, all the qualities of a great leader. Thank you sir

    Posted by vincy in bad shape | April 24, 2012, 15:11

    Posted by VINCYPOWA | April 24, 2012, 20:03
  10. How mad do you have to make a peaceful person like Arnhim before he decides to go all Obi wan on your _$$?

    Posted by Joe | April 24, 2012, 20:08
  11. Shefflorn Ballantyne didn’t say anything wrong,it was a smartass 20 years any cult can become a church..everything he said about catholicism was said by Martin Luther,lots of people don’t believe popes are divinely inspired..catholics need to remember that the Borgias were popes,there was a time where if you paid your priest enough he’d absolve you of all your sins.The people who condemned shefflorn don’t understand sarcasm,nor history…even political parties change,one mine you’re some nutjob who calls hmself The Comrade next you’re pm and other people have to call you comrade and pretend as if it makes sense

    Posted by Lisa | April 24, 2012, 20:24
  12. No-Nonsense Anesia challenged linton and lost in the internal party elections,you don’t challenge the lion if you can’t beat the tiger.Eustace is the most temperamental leader SVG has ever seen.Even the way he tells Ralph things,he says the budget will fall apart,it falls apart,he doesn’t brag/gloat,because in his mind he was just stating a fact.It’s a balance yin/yang, the pm has his crack pipe dreams and Eustace delivers facts,if you like cartoon shows listen the pm,if you like serious, boring,informative shows listen Arnhim…I love the red smurfs with their red smurf song “we nahh turn back” but at the same time you can’t run a country just singing the red smurf song,and Papa red smurf is sorta insane,plus teefy smurf seems to be all over the place,rapey smurf is no loger on the loose,and Papa red smurf was so broke he had to sell the smurfmarket and the smurf bank to gargamel,he even begs gargamel for money

    Posted by Jahu | April 24, 2012, 20:35
  13. At least eustace didn’t get people to pretend to bribe her,so he can have it on tape and force her out of the party,or tried to get rid of Boy Yeah with a letter,many members of the ulp/the real ulp got raped in order to make this 1 man party,hopefully she wont form a new party like former ulp member Ivan Oneal,Or lke Boy Yeah was forced to

    Posted by Lisa | April 24, 2012, 20:40
    • LISA, how come he in power so lang now, and they ent mek any effort at all to investigate the notorius, atrocious LUBBEN REPORT. ah wander who ‘bin write dat? Of course we know who write the wan pan ORMISTON KEN BOYEA …

      Posted by STEVE_ HUGGINS | May 3, 2012, 04:11
  14. For quite some time now I have seen Ms Baptiste as someone who is rather half or wholly crack. There is something wrong with Ms Baptiste head. She needs to have her head checked by a Pschologist or psychiatrist.

    Posted by Shanty Paula-Ann Maraj | April 25, 2012, 12:36
  15. SHANTY PAULA-ANN MARAJ, one thing Mrs. Baptiste is not and that “is rather half or wholly crack.”

    Posted by VINCY POWA (@VINCYPOWA) | April 25, 2012, 12:49
  16. The lady acted against the party policy and made statements that showed she believed she was right. Arnhim had no recourse but to fire her. She has opened her mouth once too often and for the wrong thing. How could Arnhim live down a challenge from her without showing some weakness? She can’t have it both ways: She should have resigned if she couldn’t agree with the majority decision. Instead she challenged it and that’s a no, no. She had to go. Her behaviour could spell trouble for the NDP. This is why I believe she had to be disciplined.

    Posted by pvpalmer | April 26, 2012, 00:08

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