August 14, 2012
OECS Assembly still has issues to iron out – Eustace

Although regional integration in the Organization of East Caribbean States (OECS) has the full support of the parliamentary opposition in the subregion, there are some matters of concern which could hamper the further integration of the countries.{{more}}

Leader of the Opposition in St Vincent and the Grenadines Arnhim Eustace, who was present at the historic launch of the OECS Assembly, which took place last Friday, in St John’s, Antigua and Barbuda, said there may be some issues that need to be ironed out, if the Assembly is to be effective.

“I am very happy with what happened today, I don’t have any major problems; my only concern is the last point made by the spokesman for the opposition, which I think is very critical, and that is the point that deals with whether constitutionally any country is uncomfortable that if the parliament (Assembly) makes a decision, they can’t implement it; some of them are saying that those things might be contrary to their constitutions,” Eustace pointed out, in an interview with SEARCHLIGHT following the opening ceremony.

“Now, if that is the case, the whole purpose of the parliament (Assembly) is to improve implementation of decisions; and if it turns out you can’t implement decisions at the national level, based on a regional parliament, we’re back to square one,” he added.

Eustace said that the OECS Assembly is a major step forward in the deepening of regional integration, and indicated that the Assembly has the backing of the opposition in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

“It will help, definitely help, but the strength of the Assembly is that the decisions are implementable; if they are not implementable, we are just continuing on the path we are now.”

Eustace’s concern was among a number of others voiced by Mark Brantley, Member of the Parliamentary Opposition in Nevis, who spoke on behalf of OECS opposition leaders at the launch.

Brantley lauded the fact that opposition parliamentarians have been given a voice in the Assembly, and said that the regional integration process could not proceed without the input and the knowledge of the parliamentary opposition.

“This OECS is our OECS; and we must stand government and opposition alike, shoulder to shoulder to advance a cause of regionalism,” Brantley said.

Brantley said that the OECS must recognize and accept that in fulfilling its mandate of creating a better region for its people, it cannot turn a blind eye to domestic issues which threaten the capacity of individual member states or territories, to play their full role as equal partners in the integration journey.

“To be strong regionally, we must be strong domestically. This assembly cannot become a forum for high sounding words and lengthy speeches, when the harsh realities at home militate against good governance and democracy,” he added.

“Good governance at home has to be a prerequisite of good governance regionally; the parliamentary opposition cannot be included at the OECS Assembly in St Johns, but ignored and marginalized in Basseterre, Roseau, Road Town or The Valley.

“I call on the OECS today to mandate certain minimum standards of good governance in each and every constituent element of this great organization.

“It is, for example, a matter of tremendous regret, that some member states still do not have integrity in public life legislation or freedom of information legislation to permit the populace the mechanism to rein in the base impulse of government corruption. It is a matter of even greater regret that electoral laws keep being flouted or bent to a breaking point to benefit one side or the other of a political divide, with no genuine effort being made at electoral reform…”

“That there will be difficulties, there is no doubt. That we can over come such difficulties, there ought equally to be no doubt. I have an abiding faith in the strength and character of the people of the Eastern Caribbean; we have come this far by faith and by hard work and by the grace of God…”