Group slams PM’s decision to sign Economic Partnership Agreement
29 October 2008
CASTRIES, St Lucia (CMC)
The Civil Society Network of St Lucia (CSNS) has criticised the decision of Prime Minister Stephenson King to sign the controversial Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with Europe.
CSNS President Flavia Cherry said she had hoped that the government would have had more consultation with the public about the accord that had been negotiated on behalf of the Caribbean forum (CARIFORUM) countries by the Barbados-based Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery (CRNM).
Last week regional leaders, including King, met in Barbados to discuss the initiative and, with the exception of Guyana, agreed to sign the accord before the October 31 deadline.
St Lucia was among a handful of Caribbean Community states that had previously raised concerns about the agreement, but King later told reporters that those issues, including the future of the vital banana
industry, had been addressed.
But Cherry said that the agreement which would have a significant impact on the lives of St Lucians should have been discussed more and blamed the government for refusing to "consult with constituents on the ground, and say this is what is being proposed, what do you think or how do we best engage with the EPA.
"I think it is a shame what is happening to us, that people should feel so empowered to sign something on the people’s behalf, yet also feel that they do not have to even explain what is it that they intend to sign," she added.
But Cherry said that she was still optimistic that the government would listen to arguments from other sectors before signing the accord.
"I think the fact that the governments have indicated their intention to sign, that does not preclude civil society and concerned citizens from saying to our leaders what we think about the EPA agreement, including what we think of them who are prepared to sign us over under such an agreement with a refusal to consult with those who have shown some interest in that agreement.
"It’s a real sad day for us, but I believe that the fact that the agreement is not yet signed still leaves a window of opportunity for us to continue hammering on the issue in the hope that the government can again change its position on signing the agreement," Cherry added.