Montserrat’s Speaker Vies for Chair of Commonwealth Parliament Assoc.

Shirley Osborne (red shawl) poses with colleagues at the CPA conference in Bangladesh. (SO Photo)

Montserrat’s Hon. Speaker of the House Shirley Osborne says that no matter our size, it is important that we are represented in global organisations.

She was speaking from Bangladesh where she is attending the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) conference which began on November 1.

Osborne was one of three women running in the elections to become the new chairperson of the CPA.

Emilia Monjowa Lifaka, deputy speaker of the national assembly of Cameroon, won the seat to be vacated at the end of the year by incumbent Chairman Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury. Niki Rattle, speaker of the Cook Islands Parliament was the other candidate for the position.

Speaker Osborne was elected back in August to be the Caribbean, Americas and Atlantic (CAA) Region candidate for the post. Despite her loss, the speaker shared why she thinks it is important for Montserrat and other small nations to participate.

“It was important to run because it is important that Montserrat put itself out there, as they say. We don’t have much by way of “material” resources, but we have people who are competent, capable and under-employed; under-utilised. I figure we ought to seek out very opportunity we can find to showcase the skills and competencies we have that we can employ at the international level. At some point, some of us will get recognised for something important, and by extension, Montserrat will get some recognition – and who knows all the benefit that could bring. Well, actually, we all know the possibilities for benefit that that could, indeed would, bring,” the Hon. Speaker said.

Osborne said it seemed that all of Africa came out to support and vote for the Cameroon candidate. This she said would make it a challenge for any country without that level of backing to win.

“In my address to the Assembly, I spoke about the imbalance that the existing system of accession to leadership sets up in the organisation. People vote in blocs and the association does not in any way disallow it. Quite the contrary. Several people talked to me about the problem with not insisting on free and fair, one person one vote in elections. People vote by branches, and branches have varying numbers of delegates who are eligible to vote.

“Montserrat, for example has only one delegate, other branches have up to four delegates who can vote in elections. So, unless you’re a large country or continent with endless resources you’re at the mercies of those. They help you to win if it serves their purposes, otherwise, they cut you completely out. That, I told them in my address, is not at all democratic and it sets up the risk of exploitation and corruption, quid pro quos and such.”

More than 550 delegates from 144 national and provincial parliaments of 44 countries are attending the eight-day annual conference which runs until November 8. The CPA has 52 members.

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