KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Apr. 26, CMC – A week after being sacked as an opposition senator, Anesia Baptiste on Wednesday said her former boss, Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace should resign along with “old-era” leaders at the helm of the New Democratic Party (NDP).
“The Honourable Arnhim Ulric Eustace should resign as leader of the New Democratic Party because he is not a good example of a leader. Sitting down behind closed doors, not going … to meet the people in all the constituencies is not going to win you an election,” Baptiste told reporters, adding that she had suggested to Eustace ways in which the NDP can win an election.
The NDP has been in opposition since 2001 — after 17 years in office — but in 2010 won seven seats, one short of forming the government, and four more than it won in both the 2001 and 2005 elections.
Baptiste claimed that her efforts had led to the increase in the NDP’s fortunes but rather than paying attention to the feedback from party supporters, there are “excuses, and even jealously and hidden conspiracy and in-fighting killing the party and attacking hard-working members like myself, just because I have an … interest in serving the people and because some find this a threat to their own thirst for leadership.”
She said that the NDP “would never see the corridors of power until the bunches of old leadership from the old era go.
“That is hurting us. The old heads need to resign and the party needs to be reconstituted with young blood who care and can be creative and energetic to go out there and win elections for the people.” she said.
Baptiste spoke to reporters to explain her dismissal from the Senate last Thursday after saying that she would not obey a policy the NDP had adopted that the party’s election candidates should not make “adverse” statements about religion.
The policy followed statements on radio earlier this month by Shefflorn Ballantyne — then a potential NDP candidate for the North Windward constituency — that Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves was hypocritical in criticising the Thusian Seventh Day Adventist group, when that group has similar doctrines to the Catholic Church, of which Gonsalves is a member.
“The people of this country must beware of the Opposition Leader’s explanations as to what happened. Because he presented things that were not so and he went to extremes measures to misrepresent me over an unconstitutional policy,” Baptiste said at the news conference at which Ballantyne also spoke.
“Whence really cometh this sudden interest in some protection of a particular church from some alleged intention of the Thusians to attack them?” Baptiste, herself a Thusian Adventist, said.
She said she was a member of the church before she joined the NDP in 2009. In 2011, Eustace appointed her shadow minister for ecclesiastical affairs in 2011.
She further said that she sat on Select Committees of Parliament that considered the petitions of religion groups and no one complained about her beliefs.
“I was a Thusian all along and he knew this. But when it is politically expedient to get rid of me because of petty jealousy and envy due to my popularity among the people, more than some of you who feel leadership is yours by right because you are more senior, you make up story about some feigned interest in protecting the party’s image against attacks on religion,” Baptiste said.
“You dictate a policy fast, fast, fast over statements you didn’t even hear and then you demonise Anesia Baptiste for resisting the injustice of the whole matter and then you fire her,” she said of Eustace.
Baptiste said that Eustace did not hear first hand the statement that Ballantyne made on radio.
A meeting of the NDP’s Strategy Committee last week Tuesday did not hear a recording of statements because of technical difficulties, according to Baptiste and the NDP.
“What a shame; shame on you, Mr. Eustace,” Baptiste said of the man who had described her as too intelligent for the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) when she fell out of favour with that party three years ago.
“You used me and then you throw me away. I know this was in the works,” she further said of Eustace, who at the NDP convention last November defended his appointment of political novices Baptiste and Vynnette Frederick to the Senate.
NDP chairman Dr. Linton Lewis had told the media that he was not consulted on the appointment of the senators. Political observers are waiting to see if he will replace Baptiste when Eustace announces the new appointee.
“Since the convention of 2011, just for daring to enter the race for chairmanship of the party … I was demonised by members,” said Baptiste, who lost to Lewis and was third after West Kingstown representative Daniel Cummings in the three-person race.
She said NDP members her as being too young, inexperienced and power-hungry, and needed to win a seat first.
“And all sorts of senseless arguments were put to me,” she said, adding that she was told that the NDP top brass were not happy and warned her to be careful of her senatorial appointment.
“This is the type of nonsense that is going on in this party over a young 31-year-old woman wanting to legitimately contest a position in a democratic process,” Baptiste said.
Asked by reporters if she felt the same way about Eustace before he fired her, Baptiste said she did not but was surprised by the way in which she was dismissed.
Eustace announced Baptiste’s dismissal on radio mid0morning Friday, but the party had earlier informed her to collect a letter revoking her senatorial appointment at party headquarters.
ULP General Secretary, Senator Julian Francis, said on radio Tuesday night that the NDP’s experience with Baptiste could have been avoided had the party headed the ULP’s warning in 2009.
“It is strange how easily the New Democratic Party gets hoodwinked by people,” he said, adding, “they have been slapped, despite warnings by the Unity Labour Party in the past about the nature of this young lady,” Francis said.