Thu | Jul 25, 2024

Parliament holds the last sitting in 200-year-old building

Published:Saturday | June 3, 2023 | 12:21 AM
Parliament building in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Parliament building in St Vincent and the Grenadines.


Legislators on Thursday met for the final time in the 200-year-old two-storey building that housed the parliament of St Vincent and the Grenadines as well as a courthouse.

The building, located across from the historic Market Square, is in need of extensive repairs which will begin sometime after the High Court, which is located on the ground floor, is moved to another location.

In the meantime, the National Assembly will meet at a temporary building until a new parliament is constructed at Richmond Hill on the outskirts of the capital

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves used Thursday’s last sitting to say, “I think today is a good day. And I want to say, for members who are here on the opposite side, that at the end of the day, we are here as representatives of the people. And whatever we may say about each other, that we see, all of us in our own way ... how we can represent the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines,” the prime minister said.

“One thing I can say for sure, for those persons who always look at politicians as some species to be demeaned, the record will show that in this country, the immense progress which has taken place in this country has taken place since Universal Adult Suffrage in 1951, since the ministerial system came into being, since internal self-government, and particularly since independence.

“And that is in no small part due to the generations of leaders who have been here since 1951. And I thank them all for their service,” said Gonsalves, who has been in office since March 2001 and is the nation’s longest-serving prime minister.

Opposition Leader Dr Godwin Friday said he agreed with Gonsalves that it was a good day “because we are here today to recognise that this building … has represented, has seen the progress of our country, and has seen our emergence as a modern state, taking its place in the world, seeking to perfect our democracy”.

House Speaker Rochelle Forde noted that the final sitting was taking place on the day that the Clerk of the House, Nicole Herbert proceeded on leave until September 22 after which her retirement officially begins.

Herbert has a career at the House of Assembly spanning 25 years. She became deputy clerk on November 8, 2000, and clerk on October 1, 2004.

Forde said Herbert personified the assembly chamber, saying “she” and the house of parliament have “served many parliamentarians faithfully and well and continues to be a place revered by all who crossed the threshold of her entryway, even into the twilight of her functional years. “And yes, I am referring to the chamber”.

Forde continued, “As the aggressive effects of age and decline took root, she has, in all the circumstances, maintained her dignity, with consistent grace and poise sophistication, which is evidence here today, as she takes her final bow.”