On Tuesday, September 27, 2010 swearing-in ceremonies will take place and will mark the beginning of the implementation and use of the Montserrat Constitution 2010.
In this issue of the Montserrat Reporter a program of events is published for public information by “The Montserrat Reporter” to serve as a reminder for decades to come as a mark of the occasion. Also presented is a brief prepared by the Office of the Chief Minister of the ‘Evolution of the Constitution’.
The main ceremony on Tuesday would mark the swearing-in of the first Premier and Opposition Leader of Montserrat, in the Hon Reuben T Meade (chief minister) and Hon Donaldson Romeo (LCM).
Opposition Leader Controversy
The appointment of the opposition leader came with some ‘slight’ controversy, since Hon Victor James served in the capacity since September 2009.
Both Hon Dr. Lewis and Romeo have never been able to take the path of Hon James who from his utterances and votes in the Legislative Council very seldom supported and voted with his colleagues. They have hinted time and again that he should step aside and allow one of the others to lead the grouping. A note here that all two of the opposition members contested the 2009 election as independents with Dr. Lewis as the sole representative of the Montserrat Democratic Party (MDC).
It seemed that Dr. Lewis who having served the legislature from 2001 would have been the obvious choice of opposition leader, having served as Chief Minister after a failed promise in 2001 from 2006 to 2009. Circumstances which forced him to serve by commuting back and forth made his selection impossible, even though he now serves and works in neighbouring Antigua. Dr. Lewis explained that following his call for new elections in 2009 and his success at being reelected he went to Canada to upgrade his surgeon skills, moving to Cambridge, UK where he took a job as Senior Specialist Registrar and then Antigua where he works as Consultant Surgeon Mount St John’s Medical Centre.
In early September he wrote to the Governor advising of his nomination of Hon Donaldson Romeo to serve as opposition leader from the beginning of the new Legislative Assembly. The Governor who said that the advice had not at the time been directed to him had responded that he would expect a unanimous position from the three legislators. “…your letter, which was copied to me …I don’t think in this instance, that a possible 2-1 majority would suffice…” he wrote.
However, His Excellency subsequently accepted the nomination, writing: “…I accept the nomination of Mr. Donaldson Romeo as leader of the Opposition. He will be sworn in at a ceremony … on 27 September…”
Meanwhile Chief Minister (Premier) Reuben Meade while suggesting it was not his business commented on the issue. He said to ZJB radio: “…politicians should at this time be focusing on economic improving of the country…I try to shy away from responding to that, (the issue of the change of opposition leadership) but if you look at how somebody behaves in government if using their time in government they destabilize themselves, one would anticipate that when they go into opposition they would not behave any differently and that is what we’re seeing Dr. Lewis, could not hold a government together and in opposition it doesn’t seem he can hold the opposition together he is seeking to create discord there that’s as much as I’ll say on it other than let us move forward form there let us start looking at what we need to do to move this country forward.”
Former chief minister and longest serving elected politician still alive, 1983-2009, David Brandt weighed in on the matter of the Governor’s initial reaction to the advice of appointing Romeo. In a ZJB news broadcast, he confirmed and noted that the Governor would be incorrect not to accept the advice. “…if Romeo and Lewis tell him (the Governor) by letter or by whatever means that ‘we will not support Victor James we are going to support Mr. Romeo as the leader of the opposition’, by the operation of democracy he ought to appoint him,” Brandt said.
Hon Victor James speaking on the issue of his removal as opposition leader at the time just before it would become constitutional, said there was never an issue. “We’ve never discussed it or talk about the change of leadership or anything about leadership never I have not receive any email about it until the other day when I got a letter from Doc…” he said.
James expressed concern at the manner in which he was told about the change calling it a “strange thing.” He told ZJB news, “… the letter was written to me, it was sent to the governor, it was sent to the attorney general, it was sent to the newspapers, to radio Montserrat, People’s Television,” concluding his misunderstanding of the requirements, “if, …after you write me and you want to do something you write to the governor, but if you want to make a big disturb out of it then you are free to go right ahead…”
More of James statement to the radio station and the issue overall can be read and heard online at www.themontserratreporter.com