OUR CARIBBEAN: Waiting for Caricom’s nod
WHEN CARIBBEAN Community Heads of Government meet with President Raul Castro in Havana for the Fifth CARICOM/Cuba Summit on December 8, one outstanding non-agenda issue they have to resolve on the margins of their conference is reaching a consensus on the Community’s choice for new secretary general of the Commonwealth.
Another important initiative could well be the crafting of a message to President Barack Obama to express admiration for his principled stand in exercising constitutionally based executive authority for arresting the nightmare of deportation facing about five million undocumented immigrants – among them thousands of CARICOM-born citizens of the American diaspora.
It is to be expected that the communiqué on the CARICOM/Cuba summit would itself reflect the comparatively positive recent developments surfacing in Washington/Havana relations. In particular, President Obama’s personal diplomatic outreach to President Castro’s government against the backdrop of his publicly expressed “admiration” for Cuba’s commitment to help battle the Ebola epidemic afflicting African nations.
In relation to the need for a consensual decision on a choice for secretary general, this has been twice postponed: first, at last July’s annual CARICOM Summit in Antigua and subsequently during the hurriedly arranged special meeting earlier this month in Port of Spain, hosted by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, to discuss common approaches to combat the Ebola epidemic.
With just one year remaining, as of this month, before the scheduled November 2015 Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference in Malta, CARICOM has a moral obligation to identify a “consensual” candidate to facilitate campaigning for the post of secretary general of the 53-member Commonwealth of nations.
The convention that has developed over the years is for the post – normally for a minimum two terms – to be rotated on a regional basis. The outgoing two-term secretary general is India’s Kamalesh Sharma. And since neither European member states, nor Canada – whose turn it really is – has to date shown official interest in occupying the post once held by the renowned Canadian Arnold Smith, focus keeps shifting between Africa, which also had its period, as well as the Pacific.
However, according to the current edition of Africa Today, reputedly an influential news magazine in Africa, a former deputy secretary general of the Commonwealth, Ms Masire of Botswana, seems to have acquired some support for her bid from SADC (Southern African Development Corporation).
But, the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Kayode Soyinka, has reported on the growing interest in the Caribbean region having an opportunity for one of its nationals to again serve, since it would be a quarter century since the Guyanese-born Sir Shridath Ramphal departed after serving three terms.
Of relevance and significance is that, like the respected analyst of economic, social and political developments in Europe and the Caribbean, David Jessop, director of the London-based Caribbean Council, the editor of Africa Today also feels that continued “squabbling” among CARICOM member states could jeopardise this region’s chance to win wider support at the November 2015 Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference.
Currently, there are three potential candidates from CARICOM.
There is Antigua and Barbuda’s former long-serving diplomat in Britain, Sir Ronald Sanders. He is the current front-runner with at least nine of a dozen eligible votes among the English-speaking independent states since Haiti and Suriname are not members of the Commonwealth.
The others are Trinidad and Tobago’s former long-serving academic with the University of the West Indies and current Minister of Planning and Development, Dr Bhoe Tewarie; and Britain’s Baroness Scotland, nominated by Dominica, country of her birth, but living and working in Britain all of her adult life.
Both Soyinka of Africa Today, and the Caribbean Council’s Jessop – also a syndicated columnist for regional newspapers – have expressed surprise and reservations against Baroness Scotland’s bid with her history of involvement in British party politics and, up to recently, serving as Attorney General of the United Kingdom.
Of significance is that they both have given pluses in favour of Sanders, who blends academic work with that of a syndicated columnist while anxiously awaiting a “consensual” nod from CARICOM Heads of Government.
Question of immediate relevance is whether CARICOM leaders will deliver this long-delayed “nod” after their summit in Havana on December 8.
• Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist.