Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Hon. Gaston Browne gives official address to the nation. Photo credit: OECS Media Centre.

Addressing the nation upon the occasion of Antigua and Barbuda’s 36th anniversary of independence on November 1st, Prime Minister the Hon. Gaston Browne reminded the population that being a sovereign state means to take stewardship of the country’s course while galvanizing joint forces in the shared interest of the region.

” We have been called upon to, in essence, paddle our own canoe and to make our own way in a world that is not sympathetic to the circumstances of small island states.” He said.

Expressing appreciation for the unity showed by member states of the OECS in celebrating Antigua and Barbuda’s independence by holding a flag-raising ceremony at the OECS Commission, Browne underscored the necessity of a unified approach amongst member territories, especially in light of  the recent devastation wrought by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

“This year, 2017, has not been an easy one for the member states of the OECS ” Browne noted, as he went on to mention the role of Climate Change in the destructive weather patterns which have visited the Caribbean islands in the last few months.

” We have buried and mourned our loved ones and we now seek to put our lives and countries back together again. This will not be easy. It is occasions like these that reinforce our common humanity and make us realize that we are all in this thing together” He stated.

Browne lauded the support that Barbuda received from other OECS member states after being utterly devastated by Hurricane Irma on September 6th.  Musing on the irony that Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit had been in Barbuda and pledged aid of $250,000 merely days before Hurricane Maria hit Dominica and almost completely toppled the island’s infrastructure, Browne noted that Antigua and Barbuda had to soon return the favor to the tune of $300,000.

“In the OECS, we know that we are our brother’s keeper” he added.

The Prime Minister pledged that Antigua and Barbuda will always be on the forefront of  the movement for integration in the region, solidifying the accomplishments of the OECS and continuing to build even more structures and institutions toward ever-increasing regional harmony.