St. John’s Antigua- With the call of “I” from the dignitaries on the Parliament floor, the inaugural meeting of the Organization of the Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Regional Assembly came to a close yesterday—solidifying the event into the history books of the sub-region.
Heads of government, dignitaries and spectators alike converged on the Parliament building to witness the pomp and ceremony that was the first sitting of the new Assembly.
The proceeding began with the Inspection of the Guard of Honour, where Chairman of the OECS Assembly Dr Ralph Gonsalves, flanked by Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, inspected members of the Royal Police force who were dressed in formal white tunic attire and then presided over the raising of the OECS flag.
As the first order of official business, the sub-region heads adopted the Selected Rules of Procedure that will govern the Assembly.
After much anticipation as to who would be the event’s Speaker, Rene Baptiste of St Vincent & the Grenadines, was elected and Wilfred Gomes, of St Kitts & Nevis, was named Deputy Speaker. Kurt Thomas, from St Lucia, took the seat as Clerk.
In his address to the Assembly as host Prime Minister of the session, Spencer said that the body would not become a “talk shop” and vowed real strides would be made in the sub-region through decisions that they will collectively make.
He spoke to the need for continual cooperation between the nine member states, saying, “Nothing epitomises democracy more than a parliament. Here is a regional parliament of not one, but all of our sovereign nations of the Organization of the Eastern Caribbean States; bound together to secure the regional good in a way that we would not have achieved individually.”
In his address, Prime Minister of St Vincent & the Grenadines, Gonsalves, laid out the functions of the OECS Assembly as dictated in article 10 of the Revised Treaty establishing the OECS Economic Union.
Premier Reuben Meade, of Montserrat, made statements on behalf of the non-independent members and opposition leader from St Kitts and Nevis, Mark Brantley, addressed delegates on behalf of OECS opposition leaders.
The much-anticipated event that serves as the jumping off point for the assembly’s remit to advance and strengthen the Economic Union—as set out in the Revised Treaty of Basseterre—will now begin the real work of regional integration according to OECS Commissioner, Ambassador Colin Murdoch.
“I think it went very well. I think today is a very proud day for the OECS,” the ambassador said. He added, “I think we are launching a new initiative, a new programme that will relate to people and will assist in good governance and implementing the OECS Economic Union Treaty.”
However, Murdock said that this is just the first step in the sub-regional assembly’s work. “I think the next step is to make sure the assembly can stand up and walk…We need to get substantive legislation before the assembly, relating to all aspects of the OECS economic union and to get these issues debated and agreed upon.”
The meeting adjourned without a date to meet again, however, the ambassador said he believes a meeting will be held within the next two months, when “sufficient legislation” has been proposed to allow for a debate.
The meeting was adjourned to a wave of applause, as the Speaker was ushered out, following behind the Ceremonial Mace that was crafted by Antiguan artisan, Renford Daley, especially for the occasion.
The OECS Assembly is one of five principal organs of the OECS Economic Union. The other principal organs are: the OECS Commission, the OECS Authority, the OECS Economic Affairs Council and the OECS Council of Ministers. The Assembly answers to the OECS Authority.
Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, Montserrat and St Vincent & the Grenadines are full members, while Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands are associate members.