by Eulana Weekes
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): The Premier of Nevis, Hon Mark Brantley, gave notice that the Office of the Opposition has been closed temporarily due to unfortunate circumstances between the Hon. Cleone Stapleton Simmonds and Hon. Dr Janice Daniel Hodge, Leader of the Nevis Reformation Party.
Premier Mark Brantley, during his Monthly Press Conference on Tuesday, March 28, 2023, said a difficult situation was created after the two members of the Opposition couldn’t come to a consensus as to who will be the Leader of the Opposition following the December 12, 2022, Nevis Island Assembly Elections.
Not only has Hon. Dr Janice Daniel Hodge expressed that she had the right to the Office of the Opposition, but also suspended NRP Candidate and Parliamentary Representative for Constituency Number 5, Hon Cleone Stapleton Simmonds, who is now an independent member.
Brantley stated that the office would close at the end of April until an arrangement is made.
“Clearly, the taxpayers have no ability to pay for two offices, and since it seemed that the two members of the Opposition could not come to any consensus, we wrote on the 20th March  to them both, indicating that we were forced to close the Office [of the Opposition] until such time as clarity could be achieved; and so, that office we regret to advise, as we have indicated, will be closed as of the 30th April . I hope that the press and members of the public will understand why we have had to take this decision, and I stand here today, ready and willing to resume some arrangement if and when the members of the Opposition can get their house in order and can indicate to us how it is they expect to manage these resources, bearing in mind that these are resources from the taxpayers of the island of Nevis” Brantley declared.
The Premier also disclosed information garnered from a letter signed by Dr Janice Daniel- Hodge which requested that the courtesies of the Office of the Opposition be extended to her as Leader of the Nevis Reformation Party.
“On the 9th of March, on the letterhead of the Nevis Reformation Party, that letter was addressed to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Mr Colin Dore and that letter was written by the Honourable Dr Janice Daniel Hodge in her capacity as Leader of the NRP, and she indicated through that correspondence that she is requesting with immediate effect and I quote, through this correspondence, I am requesting with immediate effect all courtesies, privileges and assistance pertaining to the Office of the Opposition and behalf of the Nevis Reformation Party be directed to her attention.”
The Cabinet of the Nevis Island Administration decided to close the Office of the Leader of the Opposition.
According to Brantley, despite not having that Constitutional right to be Leader of the Opposition, former NRP Leader Joseph Walcott Parry was provided an office as the only Opposition member. However, when Parry retired from active politics, Hon. Cleone Stapleton-Simmonds contested and won a By-election in Constituency 5. Following the March 05 2020 By-election, Brantley said the arrangement continued.
“This Government continued the arrangement by having that office available to the Hon. Cleone Stapleton- Simmonds, not as Leader of the Opposition, since no person was so qualified, but an office for the Parliamentary Opposition on the island of Nevis. That Office had been set up, staffed, and we were paying the rent, we were paying utilities, we were paying the member of staff, and when I say we, [I mean] the taxpayers, and funding had been allocated for that.”