ST JOHN’S, Antigua – On the precipice of launching the inaugural Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Regional Assembly this afternoon, stakeholders from the OECS Secretariat lauded over this pivotal moment in the continuing integration of the economic union.
In a precursor to the historic happening, members of the OECS met with media from across the sub-region yesterday at the Heritage Hotel to discuss the details of the session.
The meeting that was substantively an information sharing session, included statements from OECS Director-General Dr Len Ishmael and presentations by Dr Rosemarie Husbands-Mathurin, who facilitated the inauguration and operation of the assembly, co-ordinator for the OECS Regional Integration Unit Elma Gene Isaac and Director of OECS Economic Affairs Division Randolph Cato.
The director general said that the assembly was not only a momentous occasion in the work of the union, but a proud moment for the citizens of the sub-region.
“It is a date with history. Symbolically it is a very, very powerful symbolic moment for us as OECS people. Secondly, it gets the business of the assembly off of the ground,” Dr Ishmael said in an interview with OBSERVER Media.
Although legislation will not be debated at the launch of the sub-regional Parliament, the director general said that for the first time the assembly will “adopt and ratify” rules of procedure that allow for “certain elections” to take place.
The member states will also deliberate on their own rules of procedure and for subsequent sittings of the assembly. The question of who will chair and deputy chair the congress will also be decided upon at today’s proceedings.
Dr Ishmael added, “It means the start of something real and tangible and really pretty exciting for us as OECS citizens.”
The OECS has been slowly but surely making strides in the region, thus far they have jointly made in-ways into the harmonisation of the region including aviation, regional security, pharmaceutical purchases and the currency union.
Antigua & Barbuda plays a key role in the proceedings as its Parliament building has been deemed the permanent seat of the assembly. However, members in future may collectively decide to make the parliament itinerant.
The OECS Assembly is one of the five organs established under the Revised Treaty of Basseterre, establishing the OECS Economic Union. It does not legislate, but is a deliberative body that supports the work of OECS legislation.
Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia and St Vincent & the Grenadines are full members, while Montserrat, Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands are associate members.
Full members will be allowed a five-member delegation and associate members will have three delegates each for a total of 39 representatives.
As the assembly is a bi-partisan effort, members from both the opposition and government of each country are invited to the proceedings.
Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, Minister of Finance Harold Lovell and Minister of Education Dr Jacqui Quinn-Leandro will represent Antigua & Barbuda, while Opposition Leader Lester Bird and Chairman of the Opposition Gaston Browne will round out Antigua & Barbuda’s delegation.
Prime Minister of St Vincent & the Grenadines, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, will chair the assembly.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)