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Time for Caricom rep to head OAS
I have read with great alarm and significant disappointment an article published on Wednesday in the Stabroek News of Guyana and carried on the internet with the headline Suriname Will Not Support Ramdin for OAS Post. Apparently, the Suriname Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Lackin has confirmed that his Government will neither nominate nor support the current Assistant Secretary General (ASG) of the Organisation of American States (OAS), Albert Ramdin, who is also Surinamese, for the top post of Secretary General (SG) of the OAS.
It is reported that in 2015, when the election for the SG and the ASG is due, Suriname will support the Guyanese nominee for ASG. Traditionally the SG and the ASG do not come from the same region, so that if precedent is followed and our Caribbean region supports the Guyanese nominee for the post of ASG, the top post will be given once again to a representative from Central or South America. Now I have nothing against Latin America and its ability, through its various representatives over the years, to lead the OAS since its inception in 1948 but there must be a very good reason for throwing away an opportunity for our region to have one of its members lead an organisation as important as the OAS.
One would have thought that on the agenda at the recently concluded Caricom meeting in Haiti would have been strategies to ensure that ASG Ramdin would get the full 45 per cent block vote of our region, followed by discussion about the legitimate lobbying measures that would be used to secure the necessary votes from countries in the other regions to ensure his win in 2015. Instead, it is reported that Lackin said, “we got the feeling that he (Ramdin) did not enjoy the region’s support, also because we did not really lobby on his behalf.”
If that statement is true, then it appears that the concession was premature because there was sufficient time to lobby the respective nations to ensure that our candidate stood the best chance to win the OAS top post.
Further, it is expected that Lackin did thorough ground work in order to conclude that Caricom countries were not willing to give Ramdin the requisite support. And if that is the case, it is unfortunate that despite the distinguished service that Ramdin has given, which has been publicly and internationally acknowledged by member states of the OAS, the current ASG has been unable to muster the support of his region. The decision not to support Ramdin is, in my view, a slap in the face and a stab in the back for a man who, based on his published achievements, has to date done his country and his region proud.
I do not know the gentleman personally and I met him for the first and only time when I was a panellist for an OAS event last November. However, based on my limited interaction with ASG Ramdin, the contribution he has made during his tenure at the OAS and the accolades he received from one of the keynote speakers from America who was well acquainted with his work, it seems he is qualified, fit and proper for the top job.
Perhaps there is a lot more than meets the eye to explain the unbelievable position taken by Suriname not to support its candidate in the 2015 bid for the post of SG. With the greatest respect to those who think otherwise, I do not accept that we should sacrifice a chance for one of our region’s members to lead the OAS in exchange for a shoo-in for the second position. The noble objectives of Caricom as identified in Article of 6 of the Revised Chaguaramas Treaty which include improving standards of living and work; expansion of trade and economic relations with third states; enhanced levels of international competitiveness; achievement of a greater measure of economic leverage and effectiveness of member states in dealing with third states, groups of states and entities of any description and the enhanced co-ordination of member states’ foreign and economic policies could certainly be better achieved and co-ordinated by placing Caricom on the international map by having us represented at the top spot of the OAS.
The fact is that Caricom is the only region which has never served in the position of SG of the OAS, the world’s oldest premier hemispheric institution, although our member states have maintained active membership, some for over 45 years. Many international groups will continue to woo Caricom to seek our voting support on a wide range of matters and I am sure that Caricom will be accommodating. But the real issue is: when will Caricom have the confidence in itself and its people to exercise its own strength in the best interest of our region?
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