Regional Opposition Leaders Seek to Establish Opposition Leaders Forum

By VOICE Reporter

OPPOSITION Leader of the United Workers Party (UWP) Allen Chastanet has initiated discourse with six other regional colleagues towards the formation of an Opposition Leaders Forum.

The initial meeting was held in Saint Lucia last Saturday.

According to Chastanet, the meeting brought into sharp focus the need for higher levels of awareness on the constitutional significance and resultant responsibility that comes with the office of the Leader of the Opposition.

“The meeting also seeks to develop a framework for parliamentary oppositions in various Caribbean countries to share best practices and to further strengthen the effectiveness of their constitutional roles in government,” Chastanet explained in a statement.

The attendees at last weekend’s meeting included Dr. Keith Mitchell of Grenada, Dr. Godwin Friday of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Jamal Pringle of Antigua and Barbuda.

Also present were Dr. Shyne Barrow of Belize, Dr. Ronnie Yearwood of Barbados and Roy McTaggart of the Cayman Islands.

The participants also requested other opposition leaders to formalise a regional platform for closer collaboration.

In an online post, Dr Barrow commended former prime minister Chastanet for this amalgamation, to share “intellect, wisdom and experience to strengthen the pivotal Office of the Leader of the Opposition, which is enshrined in our Constitution as the Prime Minister in waiting along with the Shadow Cabinet who is the Government in waiting.”

He said oftentimes, the ruling administration “dismisses and railroads the Opposition in favor of authoritarianism, which undermines our democracy and deprives our people of the best policies which will better their lives.”

Dr Barrow stated that the Leader of the Opposition Forum will work to strengthen this institution within government circles.

In anticipation of a member from that political forum assuming the government leadership role, he added, “we will ensure to adhere to a system of Governance that allows for a strong Opposition which along with civil society will serve as constructive oversight to the administration for the benefit of the people.”

Yearwood commented that in the leadup to the UWP’s 60th anniversary, he conversed with other party leaders “about challenges facing our countries and ways we can strengthen and serve our democracies.”


At a press conference, the Micoud South MP contended that several of his regional counterparts had shared this experience.

“Many times, the leader of the opposition’s position is demonised,” he told reporters. “We are treating it as a political adversary rather than recognising its constitutionality and the purpose it plays in our democracy.”

The UWP leader argued that the opposition only saw the expenditure estimates a few days before the presentation.
Chastanet said there was little explanation regarding the estimates.

Nonetheless, at a recent weekly media briefing, Prime Minister Philip J Pierre stated that the opposition were given the documents at least eight days before the parliamentary sitting, in contrast to the UWP’s term in office, where the documents were submitted to the then opposition a mere three days before the sitting.

Chastanet noted that there appears to be ‘strained relations’ between personnel from the respective ministries of finance and economic development in liaising with the opposition leader.
He declared that it sometimes appears that civil society representatives behave like they are scared to meet with opposition leaders.

Citing the need for regional leaders to gain greater recognition among Caribbean Community (CARICOM) citizens, Chastanet said it was within the democratic rights of the opposition leader’s office to function in its role.

The Micoud South MP declared that it was undemocratic to attempt to silence, demean or undermine the opposition leader’s role.

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