ST JOHN’S, Antigua – When the inaugural session of the OECS Regional Assembly began last Friday, noticeably empty were the seats set aside for three opposition members – Dr Keith Mitchell of Grenada, St Lucia’s Stephenson King and Lester Bird of Antigua & Barbuda.
The non-appearance of these three has raised eyebrows and the word boycott is being whispered in some political circles.
Bird’s absence is the most remarkable given he was one of the original signatories to the Treaty of Basseterre in 1981, which brought the OECS into being. Bird is regarded as the most senior legislator among the opposition leaders in the OECS.
He should have taken his seat in the regional assembly alongside his deputy Gaston Browne.
Of significance is the fact that none of the absentees appeared to have sent apologies to the Speaker, apart from a reference made by Mark Brantley – the man selected to speak on behalf of all the opposition parties – who said he had received a letter from King explaining his absence.
Browne said he could not say definitively why his leader was a no-show.
“In the first instance, we were expecting our political leader. I am not exactly sure what happened to him, if he sent an apology. But then again, one would have probably been read.
“Again I am not sure of the circumstances and I do not want to speculate on the reason or reasons why he was not present,” Browne said.
Browne said there were no opportunities in the session to present an oral apology on behalf of his leader.
Despite the absence of one of the most senior statesmen, Browne said if Bird’s absence was due to ill health it was understandable that he could not have attended the event.
He attached no significance to the absence of the other two members saying, “I was actually told ahead of time that they both would have been absent so I don’t think we were really expecting them. I am not sure of the official reason or reasons why they could not have made it, but we were aware that they would not have made it to the assembly.”
Speculation though is that the absentees had no confidence in the man selected to speak on their behalf, Mark Brantley. Browne said he was unaware of any joint plan to boycott the session.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)