Leader of the Opposition office closed due to dispute between Opposition MPs

NIA CHARLESTOWN NEVIS (March 30, 2023)- The Cabinet of the Nevis Island Administration ((NIA) has temporarily closed the office provided for the Leader of the Opposition in the Nevis Island Assembly as the two elected Opposition members of parliament (MPs) are disputing which of them should have use of that office.

Members of the Opposition in the Nevis Island Assembly (l-r) Hon. Cleone Stapleton-Simmonds and Hon. Dr. Janice Daniel-Hodge

As part of the Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM)-led administration’s good governance agenda, funding has been provided for an office for the Leader of the Opposition for a number of years. Despite there being no Leader of the Opposition at the time the office was established, the Hon, Joseph Parry, then the sole Opposition MP, was allowed to use the space as an office for the parliamentary Opposition. Likewise, when Hon. Cleone Stapleton-Simmonds became the sole opposition MP, the same courtesy was extended her.

The opposition Nevis Reformation Party (NRP) won two seats in the December 12, 2022 island elections, the party’s leader Hon. Dr. Janice Daniel-Hodge and Hon. Stapleton-Simmonds, however an internal dispute resulted in neither being nominated as Leader of the Opposition. Subsequently, Hon. Stapleton-Simmonds had been suspended from the NRP and during the 2023 budget she addressed the Assembly as an independent Member of the Opposition.

Speaking at his monthly press conference on March 28, Premier Hon. Mark Brantley explained that with both Opposition MPs now seeking control of the office provided for the Leader of the Opposition, the Cabinet had no choice but to close the office until such time as the MPs could reach a consensus on its use.

“That office had been set up, and we were paying the rent, we were paying the utilities, we were paying the member of staff- when I say we, the taxpayers…The Hon. Stapleton-Simmonds, because of her tenure, because she was there prior, would have continued in control of that office and the government would have continued to pay the rent, the staff member and the utilities etcetera. On March 09, we received a letter…written by the Hon. Dr. Janice Daniel-Hodge in her capacity of Leader of the NRP and she indicated through this correspondence ‘I am requesting that with immediate effect all courtesies, privileges and assistance pertaining to the Office of the Opposition and on behalf of the NRP be directed to my attention’.

“The difficulties that we found ourselves in is that we now had two Members of the Opposition, one from the NRP, and one who had been suspended from the NRP and who is now an independent Member, both were essentially saying that they had the right to that office of the Opposition. 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 March 20 to them both indicating that that we were forced to close the office until such time as clarity could be achieved and so that office, we regret to advise, will be closed as of April 30.”

The Premier made it clear that the Cabinet is willing and ready to resume an arrangement “if and when the Members of the Opposition can get their house in order and can indicate to us how it is that they expect to manage these resources, bearing in mind that these are resources from the taxpayers on the island of Nevis”.

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