KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Assembly, expected to come on stream in August, will be located permanently in Antigua, OECS chair Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves announced Tuesday.
“Of course, this is a consultative assembly consisting of government and opposition parliamentarians across the OECS, including the heads of government and leaders of the opposition,” Gonsalves said at the end of the 55th Meeting of the OECS Authority.
“So, it is an important indirectly elected assembly,” he said of the parliament-type body that “will be the filter for bills and bills and delegated legislation which will come through this OECS Authority”.
He, however, explained that the government and opposition from an OECS country do not necessarily have to have the same position on matters before the Assembly.
“It’s a free debate,” said Gonsalves, who further stated that the OECS Authority remains the highest decision-making body in the sub-regional grouping that forms part of the larger Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
“The Assembly is just the filter,” Gonsalves reiterated, noting that European integration began in much the same way them evolved into a parliament among integrated nations on that continent.
“This is the way in which, if the people of the region want even further integration, they will go,” he said.
Gonsalves said maybe the next generation of OECS leaders “may wish to say it is time for us to have a directly elected parliament or we might be around long enough that they say you all do it” or that the success of the current set up may result in OECS nationals calling for faster integration.
‘free flow of ideas’ – St. Kitts PM
Meanwhile, St. Kitts and Nevis’ Prime Minister Dr. Denzel Douglas, longest serving head of government in the OECS, noted the consultative intention for the Assembly.
He said it would gather elected government and opposition members from the various OECS nations “to deliberate on matter which we consider to be critically important in advancing the Economic Union.”
He said this consultation “in a way allow for the free flow of ideas so that we can make further adjustment to the matter that may be at hand so that by the time it gets to the Authority and the national assembly it would have already properly shaped on particular issues that we would have wanted to advance the economic union in the sub-region.”