Although he did not acknowledge the existence and presence of the Almighty God in taking his oath, the avowed atheist Chester Humphrey was officially sworn in on Wednesday as President of the Senate .
Humphrey, the President-General of the Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU), took over from Dr. Lawrence Joseph, his former Literature teacher at the Grenada Boys Secondary School (GBSS).
Also sworn in Wednesday at the Senate were former Foreign Affairs Minister under the Congress government of 2008-13, Peter David now a member of the ruling New National Party (NNP) and Nolan Cox from the sister isle of Carriacou.
Sen. Cox is replacing Senator Jester Emmons who died weeks ago to leave vacant the post of Parliamentary Secretary for Carriacou & Petite Martinique Affairs.
Sen. Humphrey addressed the Senate for the first time in his capacity as President and indicated that this was a milestone for him since it marked 24th years of service in the Upper House.
He reiterated that the only other person who has had a longer stint in the local Parliament than him is current Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell who recently marked 30 years of unbroken service as the elected Member of Parliament for St. George North-west.
The new President of the Senate assured the house that he intends to be true to the oath of allegiance to be free and fair in the discharge of his duties in keeping with the requirements of the Constitution.
He quoted the oath which specifically states that he has to faithfully execute the office of President without fear or favour, affection or ill-will and reassured the house that this is what he intends to do.
“These are the elements of conduct and expected standards which the country anticipates of me and correctly so, I shall do no less,” he said.
A major player in the creation of the 1979-83 Grenada Revolution, Sen. Humphrey, linked his rise to the post of President of the Senate to his experience in fighting for the rights of workers over the last 23 years.
“… For that I am eternally grateful to the workers of this country who first resided their confidence in me when I made my debut in 1990. Today this honour belongs to the thousands of ordinary working men and women…” he told the session.
The new President praised Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell for his decision to include him as one of persons who can help to make a contribution to Grenada’s development given the nation’s financial and economic status.
“Our beloved country and this sub-region is facing a great economic difficulty and the working people indeed through all classes and strata…retrenching workers, small businesses are going under, several construction companies are closing and dozens of workers without work,” he said.
This, Humphrey said was the context in which Prime Minister Mitchell made a plea for he along with TUC President, Madonna Harford to help in the rebuilding process that is so badly needed in Grenada.
According to Humphrey, the call by the Grenadian leader after his clean 15-sweep at the polls in February 2013 was the first clear indicative statement of a new approach that was needed in tackling the island’s huge problems.
He acknowledged that his position as President would be one of a challenge but he was up to it.
Sen. Humphrey assured all the members of the Senate that he intends to work with them in the pursuit of deepening and strengthening the country’s parliamentary democracy.
He urged all to maintain the high decorum of the house and to engage in lively and spirited debates on all issues, that concern the country’s development.
Speculation is rife that the decision of PM Mitchell to appoint Humphrey and David to positions in the Senate is aimed at nullifying any potential threat from Congress members especially its leader, Nazim Burke.