The competition for the Secretary-General post of the Commonwealth of Nations is over. In letters to both Stabroek News and Kaieteur News and in my columns, I advanced three arguments. The election results have captured the factors I laid out. I argued that it was not possible for Ron Sanders, the Caricom choice, to win against Baroness Scotland because the latter is known throughout the world while Sanders is not.
The Baroness was the Attorney-General (AG) of the UK. If you minus America, China, India, Russia, it is debatable which country comes after those four. Despite the size and population of Brazil and the power of Germany, I would say the UK. An Attorney-General of the UK is a person who would be known by the top players in all the major countries of the world. In the Commonwealth, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Canada, Australia, Nigeria, South Africa are key members. I think in those places the political elites are familiar with Scotland and not Sanders.
The Baroness would have had extensive contacts in those states, a status that I honestly believe Mr Sanders hardly ever matched. This is realpolitik and not an indictment against the ability of Mr Sanders. Secondly, I distinctly recall in one of my letters, I wrote that Sanders’ role as the envoy for small Antigua would not have advanced his name in the capitals of the world. I went on to posit in that very letter that if a Jamaican Ambassador to the US or the UN was competing with Ms Scotland it would have been a keener battle.
The brutal reality is that Antigua is not a top player in Caribbean international politics, international trade and global financial transactions. Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad are more active on the global scene way, way above Antigua. Thirdly, I suggested that her gender would put her in an advantageous position. I even suggested that Guyanese women groups should support Scotland. She was my choice because of the gender factor.
Some questions are in order? Why did Barbados support Scotland and not Sanders? My guess is that in Barbadian business and political circles, she has serious contacts and those in those circles were probably on the receiving end of her interventions when she was the AG of the UK. At the same time one should inquire how much Sanders has been active in the ‘Bajan’ establishment. Once a country like Barbados was backing the candidacy of the Baroness at the Malta conference, many Commonwealth countries would have preferred her to Sanders.
Did the gender factor play a crucial role? The answer is a resounding yes. Most countries in the world if they had to vote in the elections in Malta would probably have said that it is time for a woman to head the organization. Because of this factor, Sander’s candidacy was doomed before it started. Another question: why did Belize back Scotland and not Sanders who was the choice of the rest of Caricom? Probably because of the gender dimension, and Belizean politicians know Scotland much better than Sanders.
The average person in the Caribbean got to know the name of Sanders because of the support he got from Caricom countries during months of the raging controversy over the choice of candidate. But in real life, Mr Sanders has never been a top Caribbean diplomat known in international avenues. Jamaica, Barbados, Guyana and Trinidad have some personalities who may be more active in crucial corridors on the world scene than Sanders. I keep emphasizing that Mr Sanders’ long service to Antiguan diplomacy was not a consideration in his favour, the reason being Antigua itself.
There is a curious part that I want to touch on. I have no proof, it is only a guess, but I want to believe Sir Shridath Ramphal, as the father-in-law of Sanders may have done some lobbying among Caricom governments. Nothing that I have written here is negative about Sanders, but from the beginning in my media discussion on his candidacy, I was consistent in pointing out that his chances were weak
Finally, there was some low-key discussion in the past few months in Caricom corridors that Scotland may be too British in comparison with the other contestants from the Caribbean. I have dealt with that in one of my columns, and suffice it to say that the colour of one’s skin is not necessarily reproduced in their mind.