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FINALLY, the six independent countries of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) did last Friday what the member nations of the wider Caribbean Community (CARICOM) had done some 16 years ago—the inauguration of a regional parliament as a deliberative forum.
This political development, which has been under discussion and arrangements for some 10 years, marks a commendable step in the direction of that sub-region’s declared intention to establish an OECS Economic Union, hopefully within the next three years.
The OECS Regional Assembly, which will have its operational headquarters in St. John’s, capital of Antigua and Barbuda, comprises  parliamentarians from governments and opposition in the parliaments of the OECS.
As has been the case for the Assembly of Caribbean Community Parliamentarians (ACCP), the decisions of the OECS Assembly of Parliamentarians will be non-binding on member countries. A primary focus, however, would be to generate regional awareness among the people of the sub-region on issues of concern to them and the wider Community and to inspire implementation of decisions.
These would include pluses and minuses of the 15-member CARICOM, with debates on motions/resolutions, not initiated in national parliaments. The hope is to stimulate a strong sense of unity at the sub-regional and wider CARICOM level.
Details of functioning of the OECS Assembly suggest that, as was the case for the CARICOM Assembly, MPs would be selected on the basis of proportional representation in their respective national parliaments, but not necessarily reflecting identical positions of fellow parliamentarians back home.
The cynics may be inclined to quickly dismiss the OECS Assembly as merely a “talk shop” mechanism. True, the CARICOM Assembly—an original idea of former Barbados Prime Minister Sir Erskine Sandiford (currently this country’s ambassador to Beijing)—had no more than three regular meetings before it went silent and still remains dormant, awaiting resuscitation.
The idea of having a CARICOM parliament as a deliberative forum that subscribes to the goals of regional unity, democracy, peace and development that inspired the framing of the legal inter-governmental agreement,was generally welcomed as a good idea.
But it fell victim to political myopia resulting in failures by member governments to be supportive of scheduled meetings across the Community.
Indeed, too many regional institutions and agencies have suffered and ultimately fallen off the radar by a lack of vision and commitment by governments, private sector and non-governmental organisations. The Caribbean News Agency (CANA) readily comes to mind.
It is now, therefore, incumbent upon the OECS governments and sub-regional partners to make a success of their just-launched Assembly as they collectively strive towards the establishment of an economic union and not be dissuaded by the collapse of the wider CARICOM Assembly of Parliamentarians.
(Courtesy Barbados ‘Daily Nation’)

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