“And then there were two…” Commonwealth Candidacy: By Melanius Alphonse
“Only a pawn in their game” ~ Bob Dylan
The continuing saga of disunity within the Commonwealth Caribbean took a new turn on Monday with the election of Dr Bhoe Tewarie, Trinidad and Tobago’s nominee for the post of Commonwealth secretary general, as the new member of parliament for the Caroni Central seat in Trinidad, the mere contesting of which indicated an absence of any real commitment to the Commonwealth.
In any event, following the assumption of office of Trinidad and Tobago’s new prime minister Dr Keith Rowley, it seems to be a foregone conclusion that Tewarie’s nomination will not survive the change in government.
In March, then opposition leader Rowley urged his predecessor Kamla Persad-Bissessar to withdraw her nomination of Tewarie as head of the 53-member Commonwealth and instead to back Caribbean academic/diplomat, Sir Ronald Sanders, who has the support of at least nine nations in the Commonwealth Caribbean.
He said Tewarie’s nomination had no chance of going forward, and so Trinidad and Tobago should instead back Sanders, “a quintessential Caribbean man“.
In a predictable display of regional disunity, Sanders and Tewarie were two of three nominees from the Commonwealth Caribbean, the third being Dominica-born Baroness Patricia Scotland of Asthal, a sitting member of the British parliament.
By convention, the position of secretary general is rotated among the bloc’s various regions and, when current secretary general, Kamalesh Sharma of India, demits office after two terms on March 31, 2016, it is the Caribbean’s “turn” when his successor is selected at the next Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Malta in November.
However, the region’s lack of unity in putting forward a consensus candidate has prompted Botswana opportunistically to nominate former deputy secretary general Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba and, according to allAfrica.com, her campaign has gained momentum on the back of failure on the part of the Commonwealth Caribbean to decide who among them represents the region in the run for the secretary generalship.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
Furthermore, as noted earlier this month, Dominica’s prime minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, was not above using the national tragedy wrought by Tropical Storm Erika at the end of August to advance an unrelated agenda in relation to his nominee for the post of Commonwealth secretary general, itself an opportunistic move attempting to piggyback on Scotland‘s hitherto forgotten Dominica birthplace.
On August 28, 2015, Skerrit published a letter announcing Scotland’s appointment as Dominica’s “international relief coordinator”.
Despite doing so ostensibly as a Caribbean candidate from Dominica, it was Britain that facilitated her presence at the Pacific Islands Forum, thus reinforcing perceptions that her candidacy is a “British ‘two-card trick'”
This raised eyebrows among Pacific island leaders, who are aware that she is a sitting member of the British House of Lords and her “dominant nationality” is British.
To many of them it has become clear that Scotland is really a British candidate by the back door and is opportunistically using the small Caribbean Island of Dominica, which she left when she was two years old to establish her strong material and beneficial connection to Britain.
Questions were asked around the Forum about Scotland’s presence in the Pacific since she was appointed “international relief coordinator” for Dominica. The widely circulated explanation was that she hasn’t been near Dominica since the disaster and her appointment was merely a public relations exercise.
The baroness clearly put a higher priority on being with her British familiars to try to persuade Pacific island leaders to back her and Britain for the Commonwealth secretary general post.
Dominica looks like only a pawn in a big game, but there must be some as yet undisclosed financial or other inducement in it for the Skerrit government.
In the meantime, it seems that the Caribbean threesome will shortly become two. How long before common sense will prevail and Sir Ronald Sanders is endorsed by the entire region?
Next up, the inconvenient concept of “dominant nationality”.