October 26, 2020

Commonwealth of Nations elects first ever woman as head

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Screen Shot 2015-11-28 at 3.25.12 PM Screen Shot 2015-11-28 at 3.25.25 PMFrom telesurtv

The Commonwealth of Nations on Friday elected Baroness Patricia Scotland of Dominica to its top post of secretary-general. She becomes the first woman ever to hold the post, which includes representing Commonwealth policy that affects the 33 percent of the world’s population that lives in Commonwealth countries.

Scotland beat Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba of Botswana in the vote held during the Commonwealth heads of state summit, comprised of 53 former colonies of the British Empire that still wish to be associated with the United Kingdom. She replaces India’s Kamalesh Sharma.

“I am incredibly proud to be the first woman to hold the post of secretary-general,” she said at a press conference after the election.

She pledged to put the “women’s agenda very strongly on the table,” highlighting domestic violence as a particular focus:

“Domestic violence affects one in three women globally,” she said two days after the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. “It is the greatest cause for morbidity in women and girls and it is a disgrace that this is so.”

Baroness Scotland was congratulated via Twitter by Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit.

reports that Scotland was not the first choice for many of the Caribbean nations, who preffered Sir Ronald Sanders of Antigua and Barbuda. The matter was discussed at a recent Organization of leaders meeting, when Dominica reiterated its intention to nominate Scotland. Antigua and Barbuda later pulled out, allowing Scotland to be the Caribbean’s only entrant.

Scotland, born in Dominica in 1955, is a lawyer by profession who has achieved many “firsts” in the United Kingdom, where she was raised. Former posts include attorney general for England and Wales and minister of state for crime under Tony Blair’s Labour government, from 2003-2007. She became the first Black woman to be appointed a “Queen’s Counsel,” or top-ranking lawyer and she received a life peerage becoming Baroness Scotland of Asthal in 1997.

While Scotland’s election is a step forward for women and the Caribbean, many view the Commonwealth as an outdated link to the colonial era. , Queen Elizabeth II is the head of the association whose largest member is and most populous is India.

Membership of the Commonwealth is supposedly voluntary—“any member can withdraw at any time,” says their website—yet just three countries have completely severed ties with the body: the Republic of Ireland in 1949, Zimbabwe in 2003 and The Gambia in 2013. It was reported this year the Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart is getting increasingly uncomfortable pledging allegiance to a ruler who has not visited the former colony in 26 years, and plans to leave the Commonwealth soon.

Ahead of the official forum was the Commonwealth People’s Forum, which took place from Nov. 23 to 26 in Malta. One of the biggest issues was rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities in Commonwealth countries, which campaigners say the leaders continuously shirk addressing.

Activist Peter Tatchell said “This is the 66th year that Commonwealth leaders have refused to allow LGBTI rights on their official agenda.”

He continued, “They won’t even discuss LGBTI equality, let alone support it. It is a total disgrace and a shameful failure to honor the human rights principles of the Commonwealth Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” according to Pink News.

In other summit news, Canada’s new Prime Minister Justin Trudeax pledged Canada would make a five-year, US$2 billion contribution to help developing countries tackle climate change. He also met with the queen:

IMAGES:
Queen Elizabeth with Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma (R) and Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat (L) at the Commonwealth meeting in Malta Nov. 27, 2015. | Photo: Reuters
Scotland with Joseph Muscat & Kamalesh Sharma

For more on this story go to: http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Commonwealth-of-Nations-Elects-First-Ever-Woman-as-Head-20151127-0021.html

Related story:

Guyana backs Antigua-Barbuda nominee for top Commonwealth post

From Caribbean News Now

sanders14GEORGETOWN, Guyana — The Guyana government has indicated that it will give its full support to Antigua and Barbuda nominee, Sir Ronald Sanders, for the post of Commonwealth secretary-general when leaders of the 53-member association meet at the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Malta. A new secretary-general will be selected by heads of government on Friday, the first day of the summit.

The sixth Commonwealth secretary-general will take office on April 1, 2016, when the current secretary-general Kamalesh Sharma demits office on the expiration of his second term in office.

Sanders is currently Antigua and Barbuda’s ambassador to the United States and its permanent representative to the Organisation of American States (OAS).

The only Caribbean national to hold the post of Commonwealth secretary-general was former attorney general of Guyana Sir Shridath Ramphal, who served from 1975 to 1990.

Over the past few months, the region has been giving consideration to three nominees for the top Commonwealth post but has so far failed to reach a consensus.

Dr Bhoe Tewarie, academic, politician and former minister of planning and economic affairs under the previous People’s Partnership government in Trinidad and Tobago, had been nominated by then prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

However, his candidacy was withdrawn when current prime minister, Dr Keith Rowley, assumed office after general elections in September. Rowley stated that Trinidad and Tobago will be supporting Sanders and encouraged other countries to do the same.

david_granger12In fact, the majority of Caribbean Commonwealth countries are reportedly supporting Sanders, now including President David Granger of Guyana.

“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,” Granger said.

According to Granger, based on the reputation Sanders 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,” he said.

With Guyana facing a number of challenges, 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 Rashleigh Jackson commended Granger for supporting Sanders and believes that the “majority of the Commonwealth will be supporting him.”

While Guyana is supporting Sanders, Barbados and Belize have indicated that they are supporting British Baroness Patricia Scotland whose name was put forward by Dominica, the Guyana Chronicle reported, adding that it appears that Barbados and Belize are sticking together to facilitate a trade-off in relation to another key international post.

Although born in Dominica, Scotland’s career has been in London in law and British politics, most recently being Britain’s attorney general under the previous Labour government.

Her candidacy has been described as “tainted” by a number of influential regional political and academic figures 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.

On the other hand, Sanders 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 published by Caribbean News Now. He is also well regarded in both the ‘new’ and the ‘old’ Commonwealth and has published many papers on the future of the organisation.

The Guyana Chronicle noted that 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, the newspaper said.

While the majority in the region seems to be behind Sanders, 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 the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which can influence them to give their support to Botswana’s candidate Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba.

Meanwhile, prime minister of St Kitts and 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”.

In addition to Trinidad and Tobago, the prime ministers of Grenada and St Vincent and the Grenadines have both expressed unequivocal support for Sanders.

IMAGES:
Sir Ronald Sanders
President David Granger

For more on this story go to: http://www.caribbeannewsnow.com/topstory-Guyana-backs-Antigua-Barbuda-nominee-for-top-Commonwealth-post-28428.html

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