Antigua and Barbados at odds over Commonwealth candidate
At least one Caribbean leader is questioning a statement by Barbados Prime Minister and new CARICOM Chairman Freundel Stuart, regarding nominations for the post of Commonwealth Secretary General.
Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne, has strongly condemned an announcement by Stuart of a decision to refer the matter to the Bureau of Caribbean leaders, claiming that he did not participate in any such decision.
On the final day of the just concluded 36th CARICOM Heads of Government Summit here last weekend, Stuart told the media that regional leaders had ended the annual summit without consensus on a Caribbean candidate for the post of Commonwealth Secretary General.
However, he said they had agreed to refer the matter to the Bureau of Caribbean leaders, of which Stuart is also the chairman, and which includes Prime Minister Perry Christie of the Bahamas and Prime Minister Dean Barrow of Belize.
But in a letter sent to Stuart yesterday, and copied to all the CARICOM Heads of Government as well as CARICOM’s Secretary General Irwin LaRocque, the Antiguan Prime Minister denied participating in any such decision.
Two nominees were up for consideration – the former British Attorney General, Dominican-born Baroness Patricia Scotland, who is Dominica’s candidate, and Antigua and Barbuda’s choice, former diplomat Sir Ronald Sanders. A third nominee, Trinidad and Tobago government minister Bhoe Tewarie, withdrew from the race.
“It is absolutely true that the Heads of Government did not discuss the matter of candidates for the post of Commonwealth Secretary General. However, it is absolutely inaccurate that there was any decision by Heads to mandate the Bureau to make recommendations. Neither I, nor any member of my delegation, participated in any such decision. Other Heads of Government have also indicated to me that they know of no such decision,” Browne said in his letter dated July 7, 2015.
“The reports convey misleading information to other Commonwealth governments, very likely the fault of the reporter, and I dutifully request that your government correct this statement,” he added.
Furthermore, Browne strongly objected to the matter going before the Bureau, and called for the body to play no part in the recommendation.
The letter continued: “In any event, my Government objects to this important matter being reviewed by the Bureau and for the Bureau to make recommendations. Therefore I expect the Bureau to take no action whatsoever.”
He argued that the 12 Commonwealth Caribbean Governments had ample time to consider the matter, but had been unable to make a decision due to the “obfuscation by a few”.
“It seems to me, Prime Minister, that the matter is now beyond the Commonwealth Caribbean Governments,” he suggested.
On a related matter, Browne also raised issue with “an inaccurate and misleading” statement which was posted on the Barbados Government Information Services website.
He claimed the statement, which affirmed that a candidate must be put forward by the region to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference to be held in Malta in November this year, was false.
“This is of course entirely inaccurate, Prime Minister, and distorting. There are no ‘Commonwealth regulations’ that require a ‘candidate must be put forward by the region,’ as we all know. Every candidate for the post of Secretary General over the history of the Commonwealth has been nominated by his own Government and that is the only requirement,” Browne maintained.
“In this regard, may I ask you to consider instructing the web manager that the inaccurate statement be removed.”