Guyana backs Sir Ron for Commonwealth SG post

| November 23, 2015

GUYANA throwing its full support behind Sir Ronald Sanders for the post of Commonwealth Secretary-General (SG) when leaders of the 53-member association meet at the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Malta on Friday. A new Secretary-General will be selected on Friday, the first day of the summit.

Baroness Patricia Scotland

Baroness Patricia Scotland. Photo courtesy

Baroness Patricia Scotland. Photo courtesy

The sixth Commonwealth Secretary-General will take office on April 1, 2016.
Sir Ronald Sanders is currently Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the United States and the Organisation of American States (OAS) for Antigua and Barbuda.

Before that appointment, he was a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London in the UK and at Massey College, University of Toronto.  He also served as an international business consultant and writer.

Current Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma is expected to demit office in April 2016 on the expiration of his second term in office.
Over the past few months, the Region has been giving informal consideration of several persons in the Region for the top post.

The only Caribbean national to hold the post of Commonwealth Secretary-General was former Attorney General and distinguished international public servant Sir Shridath Ramphal. He served from 1975 to 1990.

Though there is not a consensus candidate for the Caribbean Region, the majority seem to be supporting Sir Ron, including President David Granger.

Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba.

Masire-Mwamba. Photo courtesy

Masire-Mwamba. Photo courtesy

“I would like to formally state that Guyana has given its support to Sir Ronald Sanders to be Secretary-General. One of the pillars of the Caribbean Community is coordination of foreign policy and we had hoped by now that CARICOM would have agreed on a consensus candidate,” President Granger told the Guyana Chronicle.

While Guyana is rooting for Sir Ron, Barbados and Belize have indicated that they are supporting Baroness Patricia Scotland whose name was put forward by Dominica.

It appears that Barbados and Belize are holding heads together to facilitate a trade-off in relation to another key international post.
The Dominica-born Scotland has taken many by surprise as her career has been in London in law and British politics, most recently being Britain’s Attorney General under the Labour Government.

Although well liked as a person, her candidacy has been described as “tainted” by a number or influential regional political and academic figures. This is because she is widely regarded as Britain’s candidate for the role, and damagingly there is also the view that she forfeited the Caribbean’s trust, when she supported Britain’s decision to invade Iraq.

It is also said that she did not do enough to support the Region as a Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister.


Dr. Sir Ronald Sanders former Caribbean diplomat

Dr. Sir Ronald Sanders

Sir Ron has the support of several Caribbean nations. Nominated by Antigua’s Prime Minister Gaston Brown, he has by far the broadest Commonwealth experience and background, having played a key role in Commonwealth affairs over many years, including in the Eminent Persons Group that reported in 2011 on the future direction and reform of the organisation.

He is well known across the Region because of the sometimes forthright views expressed in his syndicated column. He is also well regarded in both the ‘new’ and the ‘old’ Commonwealth and has published many papers on the future of the organisation.

Academic, politician and former Minister of Planning and Economic Affairs under the People’s Partnership Government Dr Bhoe Tewarie, had been nominated by then Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

But his candidacy was withdrawn after Dr Keith Rowley swept to power in that country’s recent election.

President David Granger

President David Granger. Photo courtesy

President David Granger. Photo courtesy

Whoever becomes Commonwealth Secretary-General in 2015, will be taking over at a time when the global strategic order is changing. There is a growing belief that with the right leadership and vision, the shared values that bind the Commonwealth will again become of global significance.
For this reason, when the Caribbean comes to decide, it would do well to select a candidate who is in touch with regional sentiment, can engage with the detail, has a known world view, is able to relate to all the nations of the Commonwealth, large and small, and is prepared to redefine its role as a stronger, more resilient and progressive organisation.

According to President Granger, based on the reputation Sir Ron has built himself over the last three decades, it is well known that he has a great concern for small states, which comprise the majority of the Commonwealth.

“We regard him as a friend of the Commonwealth and Guyana. Small states expect to see the Secretary-General coming out in even greater support of small-state security, climate change in small states and the economy of trade and commerce.”
With Guyana being faced with a number of challenges, President Granger said the border controversy with Venezuela and the vulnerability of fluctuation and variations in the economic environment will be among the pressing issues the new Secretary- General will have to address.

Former Foreign Affairs Minister Mr Rashleigh Jackson has commended President Granger for supporting Sir Ron, and believes that the “majority of the Commonwealth will be supporting him.”
While the majority in the Region seem to be behind Sir Ron, retired Guyanese diplomat Dr Odeen Ishmael is concerned that the Region has not decided on a single candidate.
This, he said can signal to the other Commonwealth nations that there is division in CARICOM, which can influence them to give their support to Botswana’s candidate Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba.

Masire-Mwamba perhaps leads the field, as the “safe” candidate. With considerable experience in business (including as Chief Executive Officer of the Botswana Export Development and Investment Authority), she served two terms as a Deputy Secretary-General under Kamalesh Sharma, with responsibility for many of the secretariat’s activities.
According to one opinion writer, as the insider candidate, she starts with the advantage of wide contacts within the Commonwealth. As a woman, she would be an appropriate choice for an organisation that has long stressed the empowerment of women as key to development and the building of stable democracies.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister of St Kitts-Nevis Dr Timothy Harris has called on the leaders of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) to move the programme forward with respect to deciding on a single candidate.

This is important, he said to avoid setting a dangerous precedent “where any island, any member of CARICOM could go on its own personal agenda which makes it ever so difficult whenever we need to leverage the collective strength of the region”.
By Rabindra Rooplall

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About the Author (Author Profile)

Sir Ronald Sanders is Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United States and the OAS. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London and Massey College in the University of Toronto. The views expressed are his own

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