There is a newlook Senate or Upper House in Parliament with the inclusion of two new members.
Government Senator, Kate Lewis, the new Parliamentary Secretary for Education took the oath of office at a sitting of the Upper House at the Trade Centre at Grand Anse in St. George’s.
Sen. Lewis has replaced Minister of Culture, Sen. Brenda Hood who has resigned from government in the wake of the fiasco over the island’s failure to hold the 2017 Panorama competition.
Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has offered Sen. Hood the position of Advisor to Tourism & Civil Aviation Minister, Dr. Clarice Modeste-Curwen.
The other new Senator is Andre Lewis, the President-General of the powerful Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU) who is replacing Sen. Raymond Roberts who resigned a month ago to join the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) for the upcoming general elections.
In taking the oath, the 35-year old ex-school teacher served notice that she does not intend to remain in the Upper House for any length of time since her goal is to sit in the Lower House of Parliament as an elected member of the House of Representatives.
Sen. Lewis said it is with “a deep sense of humility and a high level of curiousness that I assume this new role in nation building”.
“I am very happy for the opportunity to make my contribution on matters of national importance. I must say, however, my intention is not to be here for long because I am eyeing the lower house”, she added.
Sen. Lewis has already been identified by the ruling New National Party (NNP) as the replacement Caretaker for former Youth & Sports Minister, Roland Bhola in the St Andrew North-east Constituency.
She told the sitting that it was not an easy decision for her to give up 17 years as a teacher and get involved in frontline politics.
“…It was not an easy decision, Mr. President but I believe any decision to serve my country at a very high level is always the right decision. Mr. President, I am cognizant of the fact that service, sacrifice and success are closely intertwined because I believe that service and success depends on sacrifice,” she said.
In his acceptance speech, Sen. Lewis gave assurances that his commitment is to the working class.
“My …primary interest is to advance and defend the workers and the Trade Union rights in this country”, he said.
In addition, the new Labour Senator expressed a desire “to work collaboratively to advance the economic and social development of our country”, and “, to strengthen social dialogue which is extremely important because we have seen in this period social dialogue is what has helped us get through this crisis”.
Leader of Government Business in the Senate, newly appointed Education Minister Simon Stiell expressed sadness over the departure of Sen. Hood and reminded her replacement, Sen. Kate that she has big shoes to fill.
“.. You have massive shoes to fill but we know that you are more than capable. You have skills and your young age and maturity, experience that we believe will bring great value to the Chamber and we know that your contribution to the debate…will be of the highest quality. You have served 17 years as a teacher…”, he said.
“Mr. President, I know Sen. Lewis will bring that knowledge of being a teacher over that period and experience of knowing the challenges that our teachers face, our students face, the education service as a whole faces (and) I look forward to having you look forward as a colleague and a partner in facing those challenges,” he added.
With respect to the new labour representative, Sen. Stiell noted what he referred to as his impressive record of service, pointing out that this is what is needed in the upper house.
“Mr. President, Sen. Lewis has worked his way up through the Union movement…he is now the President General of TAWU and the President of the TUC. I believe, Mr. President in terms of his experience and the knowledge that he brings…based on the track record of Sen. Lewis, I would expect that he becomes a fair advocate for the rights and interest of workers and the labour movement and I hope that you would bring balance and objectivity to this role that you now serve,” he said.
Political Leader of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), Sen. Nazim Burke also joined in extending a warm welcome to the two Senators to the House.
“We’re welcoming into the Chamber two young persons who have demonstrated in their respective capacity commitment, talent and the desire to serve. I don’t know Sen. Kate Lewis very well but I have been paying attention and I have to say that from the little that I have heard and observed, Sen. Lewis is very committed, passionate and very determined to achieve.
“…I first met Sen. (Andrew) Lewis way back I think in the 80s…I was immediately impressed by his sense of patriotism and his commitment to service and so I was not shocked in the least when he attached himself to the workers movement.
“…..He is a gentleman I am very fond of Mr. President and I want to say that I truly admire Andre. I respect his diligence, his commitment and I truly must say Mr. President we are delighted to have Andre on Board. I believe the workers’ movement will be best served by Andre Lewis…the workers movement has really found a solid representative here in the Senate…”.
Both Burke and Lewis were passionate supporters of the 1979-83 Grenada Revolution of the left-leaning New Jewel Movement (NJM) that seized power in a coup d’etat against the Eric Gairy administration.
President of the Senate, Chester Humphrey welcomed the two senators to the house, and informed them that they have his full confidence in them both.
The new Labour Senator took over as TAWU boss from Sen. Humphrey just over two years ago.
According to Sen. Humphrey, Lewis is well poised to represent the workers in the Upper House.
“…I feel a sense of great happiness and achievement that today you are here, you have replaced Sen. Roberts…”, he said.
The Senate President warned his colleagues against being misled by the new Senator’s “quiet composure”, because “I can say without contradiction or a shadow of doubt that compromising your fundamental principles of the workers and of the working class will never be on your agenda..”.
“… For those who are going to be contesting in the debate, they can anticipate robust, lively, thoughtful, intellectual and provoking debate from Senator the Honourable Andre Lewis”, he remarked.
Sen. Humphrey who is now giving tactic support to the ruling NNP administration under the so-called
“Project Grenada” banner, assured the new government member to the Upper House that he believes she is the right person for the position.
He said: “What I have learnt about you in this short period of time convinces me that you are the correct person for the job and that in this period of transition because we are in a period of transition… (and) the time has come for the country to transition now to youthful representatives…”.
“… I believe from what I have heard of you, from the knowledge I have gathered of your background, coming from the bowels of the working people… pulling yourself up by your boot straps, being endowed with deep and profound principles that (have) led to the success, I am now highly confident if there was ever a doubt for the future of this country, both in the political sense and in the broader sense…”.