ANTIGUA AND Barbuda has joined a growing number of Commonwealth countries to publicly express backing for Secretary-General Patricia Scotland amidst debate about her second term in office.Lionel Hurst, Chief of Staff in the Prime Minister’s Office in the Caribbean island, told the Antigua Observer: “We continue to lend her our support, her father being from Antigua and Barbuda, and she has been helpful to small Caribbean island countries during the time that she has been the head of the Commonwealth.”
Scotland, the first woman to hold the post, was selected as Secretary-General in 2015 after being put forward by Dominica, her country of birth.But last week the BBC reported seeing a letter in which Britain’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, stated that a “significant and diverse number” of heads of government “from across the Commonwealth” opposed the idea of Scotland being automatically reappointed for another four years.
However, governments have been standing up to show their support for Secretary-General Scotland, insisting that there have been improvements in the Commonwealth’s performance under her leadership.
The UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) appraisal of the Secretariat’s performance under her stewardship has seen it improve from a C rated body to an A+ organisation in just 4 years.
In February, St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves described “attempts to hound” out the Secretary-General as “entirely unacceptable”.
He said: “Those who are doing so, must cease it. It is unbecoming.”
He added: “St Vincent and the Grenadines and the rest of the Caribbean Community, overwhelmingly support Baroness Scotland to continue as the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth.”
Comprised of 54 countries from Africa, the Caribbean and South America, Europe, Asia and the Pacific, the Commonwealth has been described by Johnson as an “extraordinary institution” which tackles many of the world’s biggest problems.
The prime minister, who is the current Chair of the constellation of nations, after Britain hosted the last leaders’ summit in 2018, has pointed to the business and trade advantages of Commonwealth membership, saying that it has a key role to play in Britain’s bright future.
A source close to the Commonwealth insisted that the Secretary-General had overwhelming support from member countries. And there is broad agreement that there has been an undeniable boost in the Commonwealth’s relevance, visibility and impact, under her leadership.
The source said: “We’ve done an informal straw poll of member states that’s shown that more than 40 out of the 54 member countries support the reappointment of the Secretary-General. This includes the open declaration of CARICOM’s 11 Commonwealth members and broad support from across Africa and the Pacific.
“The truth is that the current Secretary-General has been passionately working to revive and reform the Commonwealth, which is exactly what she was mandated to do by the governments that selected her. And she has overwhelming support of a significant majority of the organisation’s diverse membership, so we are very confused about what has been reported by the Chair.”
The source also addressed questions about the Secretary-General’s management of the Secretariat’s finances, insisting that the organisation has had a clean bill of health from auditors for every year that she has been in post, and confirming that funding from the UK and Australia has been received.