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René Baptiste is first Speaker of OECS Assembly

René Baptiste is first Speaker of OECS Assembly


Former Vincentian parliamentarian René Baptiste says that she was ‘choked up’ with emotion when she was elected first Speaker of the OECS Assembly in Antigua and Barbuda last Friday.{{more}}

Baptiste, a former minister of culture, tourism and labour, told SEARCHLIGHT, following her historic election, that the moment was a nostalgic one for her and although she was not nervous at the occasion, it was not an office that she expected to take.

She, however, said she is looking forward to it.

“I felt overwhelmed. It was a personal achievement. I felt choked up like in 2001 when I took the oath of office for the first time. I feel honoured and privileged,” Baptiste admitted.

No stranger to being in charge, the woman who headed the local organizing committee for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations a few months ago, was nominated by Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines Dr Ralph Gonsalves. Her nomination was seconded by Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis Dr Denzel Douglas.

Being unopposed, Baptiste assumed the position, which she will hold until her tenure is up in two years’ time. As Speaker, the practising lawyer is expected, among other things, to uphold the dignity and decorum of the Assembly, ensure that the Assembly meets, and that there are items of substance on the order paper.

During her inaugural speech, Baptiste thanked all who supported her election as Speaker at the historic occasion, and pledged to do her best and be the servant of the Assembly.

“I’m asking for the cooperation and support of all honourable members. It is a serious place, we have serious work to do. These are serious times and time is of the essence; it is no longer waiting for us, this is our occasion to write our own history with our own hands, with our own words….”

Her first act as Speaker was the call for the election of the Deputy Speaker. This position was filled, unopposed, by Kittitian Walford Gumbs, who was nominated by St Kitts and Nevis prime minister Dr Denzel Douglas, and seconded by Opposition Leader of St Vincent and the Grenadines Arnhim Eustace.

Baptiste further told SEARCHLIGHT that she believes that the Assembly is a timely organization, whose idea of economic union will improve the quality of living for the citizens of the subregion and the wider Caribbean on a whole.

“We can’t look back; we have to go forward,” Baptiste pointed out.

“We have a young population that is rearing to go and they have a lot of ambition and needs…. We have serious issues to deal with (immigration policy, maritime industry) and we have to move with some expedition on these matters,” she added. (JJ)