By Devonne Cornelius
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): The Nevis Island Assembly is yet to have a Leader of the Opposition and an Opposition Senator as set out in the Constitution of St. Christopher and Nevis, and this is because of an impasse within the Nevis Reformation Party (NRP).
During WINN FM’s Inside The News program on February 04, 2023, panelists weighed in on the issue, which has been a major talking point for some weeks in the Federation and across the region.
Political analyst Peter Wickham described the impasse as mischievous and said there needs to be a Leader of the Opposition who must have the right to select the opposition senator.
“There needs to be an Opposition Leader. I don’t buy this nonsense that the Opposition Leader’s appointment has to be dependent on any letter being signed by the second member of the opposition in a five-party arrangement…
The Deputy Governor lives in Nevis and witnessed the election and knows very well who is leading the NRPs and in my sense, Dr. Daniel-Hodge should have been able to go to Deputy Governor the day after the election and say ‘I command the majority of support in the opposition. You were present during the election and you heard members swearing theory loyalty to me as leader and if we had one, I would have been premier so if we have lost, then clearly I should be the Opposition Leader’. But this idea that you’re waiting for someone to write a letter in support is mischievous and I don’t believe that kind of mischievousness should be something that our Governor or Deputy Governor should take on.”
“There should be a leader of the opposition and that person has the absolute right to name the senator. I think that is Dr. Daniel-Hodge’s right and while I appreciate that Stapleton-Simmonds may very well have a different opinion, that is irrelevant. If she had a different opinion, she probably should have not signed on to run on an NRP ticket,” Mr. Wickham said.
Mr. Kamalie Mannix, a youth parliamentarian from Antigua and Barbuda also gave his opinion on the internal stalemate within the NRP.
“I think it is utter foolishness. I have never heard of a situation where I have to go to the Governor General and say yes it is two of us and I am giving her the chance. The accepted principle is whoever leads the party with the second largest number of seats, automatically becomes the Leader of the Opposition and that person is Dr. Janice Daniel-Hodge so for me it’s like playing mixy messy unnecessarily because if it was the other way around there would have been no question as to Dr. Daniel-Hodge becoming the premier…and so I think there is an intention to play politics but not in a positive sense and I think it is ridiculous on the part of Stapleton-Simmonds.”
NRP’s leader, Hon. Dr. Janice Daniel-Hodge is the Elected Representative for Nevis 4 (St. James) and Hon. Cleone Stapleton-Simmonds is the Elected Representative for Nevis 5 (St. Thomas), having first been elected in a by-election in March 2020 following the resignation of the Hon. Joseph W. Parry.
Mr. Jermin Abel, a journalist from St. Kitts and Nevis, was also a guest on the panel.
“This is the definition of petty politics but for me, I don’t blame Stapleton-Simonds nor do I blame Dr. Daniel-Hodge. I blame NRP for this particular issue because you cannot tell me we have a leader and we have an elected representative and before we actually got into the house, this matter was not resolved? There should be something written in [NRP’s] constitution that governs your party to say that you agree on these principles before we go into the house to have everyone sworn in, and for this to be dragging on, is beyond ridiculous.”
Mr. Abel said that this may be “the nail in the coffin” for the NRP if they do not resolve this issue quickly. He said he believes that the topic may resurface as a talking point in the next local elections.
The NRP’s Jaedee Caines and Dr. Patricia Bartlette are challenging the election results in the Nevis 1 (St. Paul) and Nevis 2 (St. John) constituencies, with supporters hoping for a favorable outcome, but this public squabble between the party’s leader and deputy leader has dominated political news.
Stapleton-Simmonds, in a recent interview with a regional media house, said the issue is not about who should be leader of the opposition but rather about her and Dr. Daniel-Hodge agreeing on who should be the senator. Dr. Daniel-Hodge was also speaking on the issue in an interview with a media house. She said her colleague Stapleton-Simmonds has not given her the support to be Leader of the Opposition by signing a letter addressed to the Governor-General to execute the appointment.
People have been calling for the issue within the NRP to be resolved quickly and expressed that they support Dr. Daniel-Hodge as Leader of the Opposition. Meanwhile, there are others who are in support of Stapleton-Simmonds holding the title and having the right to select the senator.