Written by Clive Bacchus,
The election for the post of Commonwealth Secretary General may be over- Baroness Patricia Scotland emerged victorious- but the dust has not settled on the controversy surrounding her candidature.
Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne, who backed Sir Ronald Saunders for the post, maintains that the Caribbean got the short end of the stick because CARICOM states were divided and did not vote as a bloc.
“It is true that we had two Antiguan nationals contesting, Sir Ron Saunders and Baroness Scotland. But Baroness Scotland was not a Caribbean candidate she was a British- sponsored candidate who happened to have been born in Dominica with Antiguan parentage, ” he asserted, during a recent interview on Antigua and Barbuda’s Observer Radio.
Mr. Browne backed Sir Ronald Saunders, who was eliminated in the first round of voting, for the post while Dominica supported Baroness Scotland who triumphed at the Commonwealth Summit in Malta.
“Now, the fact that Baroness Scotland actually served the British all her life has lived there for her entire sixty years, barring two years in Dominica.
The fact that all of her life interests are in the United Kingdom- she lived there, her family interests, her assets, all of her professional contributions have been made to the United Kingdom, she is a citizen of the United Kingdom.
It makes her effective and dominant nationality Brit…,” Prime Minister Browne argued. “… and I don’t think anyone can question that seriously…”
At this year’s Commonwealth Summit, Africa and the Caribbean were the only two regions allowed to field candidates for Secretary General.
The African bloc’s candidate supported Botswana’s Mmasekgoa Masire- Mwamba, former Deputy Secretary General of the Commonwealth.
Mr. Browne told Observer Radio that prior to Baroness Scotland’s nomination, an effort was made to nominate the Guyanese-born Baroness Amos but the Guyana government refused to support her on the basis that her dominant and effective nationality was British and she would not represent a genuine Caribbean candidate.
He contended that after that refusal Baroness Scotland was approached and she was successful in the getting the nomination of Dominica.
“What we sought to do in the period leading up to the contest was to get Dominica to withdraw Baroness Scotland, from the standpoint that she was not a Caribbean candidate,” Mr. Browne asserted.
“Yes, she happened to have been born in Dominica and her father happened to have been Antiguan but in terms of her interests, her contributions- they are exclusively Brit and she is a British Candidate.”
He argued: ” … the convention is, because Britain has the secretariat, and the Queen is the headship of the Commonwealth, Britain is precluded from fielding a candidate, so what they conveniently did was to get someone, one of their own, a British national who had Caribbean roots and to use that individual to literally control that post.”
“So, I want you to understand the bigger issue here, that it was a form of stealth, in which they divided the Caribbean and then use their superior machinery to get Baroness Scotland elected.”
On the eve of the election for Commonwealth Secretary General the British newspaper The Telegraph claimed that Sir Ronald was named by an investigator of receiving US$1.4 million for an alleged fraud against the government of Antigua and Barbuda.
Charges, Sir Ron and his supporters, including the current Antigua and Barbuda government have dismissed, but whose weight have cast doubt on his suitability for high office.
” Let me make it abundantly clear that Sir Ron Saunders … has never been interviewed, has never been charged and has never been convicted of any crime…Baroness Scotland on the other hand has been convicted for breaking the law in the United Kingdom,” Mr. Browne said.
The Telegraph newspaper in the UK reported in 2009 that Baroness Scotland paid an administrative penalty of 5000 pounds sterling for failing to make a copy of the documentation she saw relating to the employment of a housekeeper who turned out to an illegal immigrant.
Under British law, employers are required to obtain and copy the relevant documentation before anyone is employed. Critics have contended that by employing an illegal immigrant without properly checking and copying the documentation, Baroness Scotland breached the 2006 Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act.
The Baroness has stated that she committed a technical breach and not a criminal offence.
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