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Baroness Scotland is new Commonwealth SG

Saturday, November 28, 2015

VALLETTA, Malta (CMC) — Britain's former attorney general Baroness Patricia Scotland was elected Secretary General of the Commonwealth on Friday, replacing the outgoing Indian former foreign affairs minister Kamlesh Sharma.

Baroness Scotland, who was nominated by Dominica, was one of two Caribbean nationals seeking the top post within the Commonwealth -- a voluntary association of 53 independent countries and home to 2.2 billion citizens.

She was elected at the start of the Commonwealth summit here.

Her nomination for the post had divided the 15-member Caribbean Community (Caricom) grouping with some countries openly supporting Sir Ronald Sanders, the Antigua and Barbuda ambassador to the United States, who is reported to have withdrawn from the race after failing to pass the first hurdle.

Up to last week, the Roosevelt Skerrit administration had insisted that the former British politician, who was born in Dominica in 1955 before moving to London with her family, would be its nominee even as the region called for support for a single candidate.

"Can I just say what a huge privilege and a pleasure it is for me to be entrusted with one of the most burdensome but wonderful roles there
is in the international world today," said Baroness Scotland, who served as attorney general in the United Kingdom from 2007-10.

There is no formal job description for the post. Nor is there a policy specifying that the post of secretary-general should be rotated regionally, although candidates must be citizens of Commonwealth countries. Only two terms of four years may now be served.

The last Caribbean national to serve as Commonwealth Secretary General was Sir Shridath Ramphal, who was elected to the post in 1975 and served two terms.

Baroness Scotland told reporters that she was "born in one of the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean... and that greatest privilege I have had is to be asked by my country to take on this role".

She said that the Commonwealth "has within
it the ability to create something the world desperately needs" and that she was "proud" to be one of the candidates, but the two other candidates...have much to offer".

Apart from Sir Ronald, the other candidate was Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba of Botswanna.

"I am humbled I was chosen in their stead," she said, adding "Can I just say to Antigua that they too have won because I am Antiguan through my father... and as for African, I am a daughter of Africa too".

"I am a child of the Commonwealth. There is much to do and I hope all 53 of us will look together at the vision, we will look to what we have to do on climate change, on education, on science and technology and we will make this a better world fr our children," she declared.

Earlier, as the Commonwealth leaders began their meeting here, British Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to establish a Commonwealth unit to target the "scourge" of extremism.

He told the meeting, which is being attended by Queen Elizabeth 11 and several Caricom leaders, that the Commonwealth had a vital role to play in tackling terrorism and pledged £5 million (£1 =US$1.50 cents) towards the unit.

As she opened the conference, the Queen said she was enormously proud of what the Commonwealth had achieved and "all of it within my lifetime" and that the grouping would continue to be called on to demonstrate leadership in global issues.