On June 15, a little more than a month from today, another chapter will unfold on the long road to OECS Economic Union.
The OECS Regional Assembly will meet for the first time, in this country, and plans are well advanced for the inaugural event.
This development forms part of the operationalisation of the Revised Treaty of Basseterre, which came into full effect in January 2011.
The treaty makes provision for the establishment of five main institutions, one of which is the OECS Parliamentary Assembly comprising both members of government and opposition parties.
Each full member state is expected to nominate three members from the government benches and two from the opposition side.
Last week, members of opposition parties met in St Lucia where they indicated who their nominees are. A communiqué arising from the forum said their objectives were to brief parliamentarians on development relating to the Economic Union; to keep alive the process of consultation and public education; and to address issues relating to the inauguration of the assembly.
This meeting of the minds of opposition members was deemed a success as they all expressed full support for the economic union, “with some reminding the meeting that they were active and passionate promoters of the economic union initiative when they served in government and asserting that they were not about to change their position because they were now members of the opposition.”
At his juncture, we pause for reflection. Here again our leaders- both current and possibly future – have committed us to another institution about which there has been very little dialogue. The time is almost upon us and as we understand it, Antigua & Barbuda will be the seat of this august body.
How much have we been told about the OECS Regional Assembly – very little? One of the issues yet to be ironed out is who is to be speaker of the assembly. The role of speaker is likely to be an important position.
For the first time over the weekend, we heard that the current post holders are not eligible and that the body will have to search for one. A communiqué noted that the revised treaty makes provision for the election of a Speaker who is to satisfy the qualifications similar to those of the Speaker of the national assemblies.
A flash back to when this institution was mooted was the problem of harmonisation of the enabling legislation to bring the organisation into being. To the credit of the respective governments, this has now come to pass.
The areas of functional cooperation in the OECS are part of the success stories of the region. Among them are pharmaceutical procurement; ECTEL, OECS Supreme Court; and the Monetary Council.
However, given the less than sterling performance of the wider union – Caricom – there is a danger that the assembly could become another talk shop, a place where politicians meet to hear the sound of their own voices rather than a place where real issues affecting the people whom they represent are discussed.
We welcome discussions of the kind that such a forum could bring. Even more importantly, we recognise that government is continuous and the positions the incumbents take will have implications for the incoming leaders.
It is a step in the right direction when government and opposition lay out their respective positions in a structured forum on matters affecting the populace. Hence we would avoid situations where politicians say one thing in opposition and do the other in office.
We look forward to debate involving proposals to enact an Act of the OECS. We anticipate discussions on any report to the OECS authority on any matter referred to the Council of Ministers.
The chairman of the OECS, Dr Kenny Anthony saw the meeting last week as an “absolute necessity in the process of advancing the implementation of the economic union” and confirmed the existence of a “new and enlightened thinking in respect of governance in the region.”
The coming together of the leaders of the region, he noted, “is sending the requisite signals to the people of the OECS, the wider region and indeed the world, that the leadership of the countries which constitute the OECS posses the maturity required by the times, are serious about advancing the interests of the people whom they represent and are prepared to invoke the requisite political will to do that which is necessary to secure the advancement of those interests.”
A laudable objective indeed, and spoken like a true statesman. Except, as we all know, the road to that place is paved with good intentions.