Editorial

Will the Caribbean ever hold the OAS top post?

Sunday, February 24, 2013    

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The foreign minister of Suriname is reported in the press as stating that his Government will neither nominate nor support Mr Albert Ramdin, a distinguished Surinamese, for the post of secretary-general of the Organisation of American States (OAS).

The minister is also reported to have said Suriname will support the Guyanese nominee for assistant secretary-general, the post which Mr Ramdin now holds.

This is a very strange position to state publicly since at this time there is no vacancy nor any formally announced candidates in either post. In fact, neither post becomes available until June 2015, more than two years from now.

It is widely rumoured that the current secretary-general is being pressured to leave office by the four most powerful member states who, it is said, are unhappy with his stewardship. The SG has not resigned nor indicated that he intends to resign before his elected term is completed.

It is well known that Mr Ramdin would be interested in offering himself as a candidate for SG, but he has not announced that he is in fact a candidate, hence a pronouncement seems premature.

A further mystery is that there is no formally announced candidate from Guyana for a post which, in any case, is not vacant. There is speculation that the current, and a former permanent representative of Guyana to the OAS, are both interested in Mr Ramdin's post and it is not clear whether the foreign minister is committed to one of these gentlemen.

It is an enigma that the minister, by his own admission, made his position clear at the recent Caricom Heads of Government meeting in Haiti on an item that was not on the agenda and therefore not aired in the official discussions of that caucus.

There is now a furore in Suriname over the issue of why the Government is not supporting one of its nationals.

Ramdin, a career diplomat, is admirably qualified, having served as Suriname's permanent representative to the OAS, assistant secretary-general of Caricom, and, for the past eight years, as OAS assistant secretary-general.

In addition to his pertinent experience and knowledge of the OAS, Ramdin is from a country which is both a Caricom and South American nation. He also is fluent in all four languages required by the OAS. He is believed to have support within Caricom and Latin America.

Apart from the almost unprecedented refusal to support a national, there is the perennial question of when will the Caribbean ever occupy the post of OAS secretary-general. The practice is to reserve the assistant secretary-general post at the OAS for the Caribbean.

This was a palliative to the Black, English-speaking Caribbean which has evolved into a post for Caricom. The importance of Ramdin as a candidate for SG is not only for Suriname, but because it gives Caricom the best chance to date to elect one of its citizens to the top OAS post for the first time in the history of the organisation.

The issue of possible candidature of Caricom for either secretary-general or assistant secretary-general of the OAS has been poorly handled. Indeed, there has been a lack of diplomacy, causing embarrassment to Caricom and possibly undermining the chances of the region getting either post.

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