Monday, 07 May 2012 02:30
By Alex Holder
Antigua St John's - Deputy leader of the Antigua Labour Party Gaston Brown has said that his party will be advocating for a credit card system to be put in place for government ministers and other officials who travel often as part of an accountability system that would not only provide a better microscope for overseas spending but also remove some of the red tape and restrictions of the per diem system currently in place.
Brown shared this as he provided an insight into the recently concluded meeting of the leaders of the opposition in the sub-region held in St. Lucia that he and fellow opposition MP Molwyn Joseph were allowed to attend.
The historic meeting was called by Chairman of the OECS Dr. Kenny Anthony.
On the Big Issues radio program on Sunday, Brown provided an update on the purpose of the meeting and attempted to provide a synopsis of its outcome.
He noted that, while the meeting was the first of its kind to be held in the region at that level, it was also historic in its nature of focusing specifically on the opposition and more so notable in that the trip for himself and MP Joseph was actually funded by the government of Antigua and Barbuda.
“For us it was a welcomed initiative. We believe that it augers well for continuity of government within the region and obviously it also helps to facilitate some stability among opposition members and members of the government party. We believe too that it also helps opposition parties to be brought into the information loop so that they can speak from a position of fact rather than from a position of ignorance…”
Regarding the plane ticket and the EC 750 per diem funds provided for himself and MP. Joseph, Brown said the money was well spent.
“Insofar as accounting of the funds received, the money was just sufficient to cover our hotel bill of US$225 and our meals.
We believe strongly that per diems should be well managed and accounted for…”
Brown labeled the opposition leaders’ meeting as “very robust” and facilitative of opinions and participation from all in attendance.
It featured a briefing of the OECS Economic Union, its organs and a discussion of the rights and benefits of OECS citizens, which include the free movement of capital across the islands without quantitative restrictions and duty charges.
The opposition deputy leader commented on the fact that other OECS countries have moved ahead with the free movement of OECS nationals within their countries, ahead of Antigua and Barbuda which has long been plagued with issues of legislation and implementation – an issue that the other nations seem to have surpassed.
Another topic of notable significance for discussion at last week’s meeting was the OECS Parliament that will have its historic inaugural sitting in Antigua on June 15.
Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer has called this move a significant one for both the nation and the region
to be proud.
But out of the meeting came many concerns about the constitutionality of the proposed assembly and its potential to “undermine the national sovereignty of national parliaments,” explained Gaston Brown.
He said the matter was previously referred to for legal opinion, with at least two being understood to have been received. But the nature of these opinions were not shared with the gathering last week.
The move is also posed for questioning before the Appeals Court as a matter of constitutional interpretation and guidance.
A number of national concerns were also placed before Prime Minister Kenny Anthony.
"It is who actually volunteered and asked the various delegations if they had any issues at the national level that they would like raised at the next meeting of the heads…”
MP Molwyn Joseph is reported to have dealt with the issue of the harmonization of the political infrastructure in Antigua and Barbuda and throughout the region in order to avoid some of the “sinister amendments” or moves to adjust the electoral legislation to give the incumbent government an unfair advantage to compete in the election process, according to Brown.
He added that Dr. Anthony had “graciously agreed” to accommodate these requests and have them raised as the next government heads meeting.
The overall outcome of the meeting is being viewed as successful by Brown who believes that Antigua would have gotten value for money with its participants leaving with a better understanding of the treaties and issues of the Assembly that were previously unclear.