Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has responded to Wednesday’s lead story in Barbados TODAY which said he had absented himself from a December 8 meeting, which was specifically called to decide on a regional candidate for the post of Secretary General of the 54-member Commonwealth.
A statement from the Prime Minister’s office did not deny that Stuart, who was in Havana for the CARICOM-Cuba Summit, did not take part in the meeting, but it sought to discredit the story, written by Editor-In-Chief Kaymar Jordan, which quoted several well-informed regional sources as sayingthat instead of taking part in the critical vote, the Prime Minister had opted instead to meet with Barbadian students studying in Havana.
In his absence, nine of the 12 Commonwealth Caribbean countries reportedly endorsed former Antigua & Barbuda High Commissioner to London Sir Ronald Sanders for the top job at the London-based Commonwealth Secretariat, for which Barbados is said to be supporting the Dominica candidate Baroness Patricia Scotland. Trinidad is also field a candidate for the Commonwealth job.
The story also quoted letters written by Sir Ron, who has since withdrawn from the race, as well as outgoing CARICOM chairman Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne, in which they both expressed serious disappointment over CARICOM’s handling of the matter. Sir Ron said while he was grateful for the support he had received from nine of the 12 CARICOM governments, he was “deeply anguished” that the region had not been able to settle on one candidate.
Following is the full text of the statement issued by the Prime Minister’s office.
“The article contains several inaccuracies. The date originally proposed by the Secretary General for the Sixteenth Special Session of the CARICOM Heads of Government was the afternoon of Sunday, December 7.
On the morning of Monday, December 8, the Heads were informed that the meeting would now take place on that same day, at lunchtime.
There were two items on the draft agenda. No reference was made to a vote.
Before leaving Barbados for the meeting, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart had already committed himself to a meeting with Barbadian Associations in Cuba (not only from Havana, but other locations) on Monday, December 8, at 1:00 p.m., and he communicated that information directly to the Chairman (the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda) and the Secretary General of CARICOM, thus explaining his inability to be available on the new date proposed.
He also sought their agreement to a proposal that since the Heads of Government of two candidates were not present at the meeting in Cuba, the topic of the candidature to the Post of Secretary General of the Commonwealth should be rescheduled to a time when those two heads could be present. This proposal was accepted by the Chairman of CARICOM (Antigua and Barbuda, which had a candidate) and the Secretary General.
As is the usual procedure, any further information regarding the meeting should be sought from the Secretary General of CARICOM, if it is to be accurate.”