Trinidad minister defends PM over Commonwealth report

first_imgNewsRegional Trinidad minister defends PM over Commonwealth report by: – October 17, 2011 96 Views   no discussions Sharing is caring! Share Tweetcenter_img Share Share Minister of Foreign Affairs and Communications, Dr Surujrattan RambachanPORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad — In a letter to the editor published today, Trinidad and Tobago’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Communications, Dr Surujrattan Rambachan, has come out in defence of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar over a decision not to make public a report prepared by the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group (EPG).The EPG was established by Commonwealth leaders in 2009 to look at how the Commonwealth might be updated and made more relevant and has recently completed a report on the status and future of the organisation.Members of the EPG, Senator Hugh Segal (Canada) and Sir Ronald Sanders (Guyana), presented a summary of the major recommendations of the Group’s report to Rambachan in Port of Spain in August.Women’s and youth empowerment; women’s political participation; intra-Commonwealth trade; HIV/AIDS; a Youth Corps and the need for greater co-ordination among the Commonwealth Secretariat, Commonwealth Foundation and Commonwealth Designated Organisations are key areas of focus in the report. Other topics included the role of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) and the need for the increased engagement of this body in order to preserve Commonwealth values. A need was also identified for the establishment of a Commonwealth Commissioner for the Rule of Law, Democracy and Human Rights to effectively support and implement the work of the secretary-general and CMAG.Sanders and Segal stated that the EPG report contains 107 recommendations, of which 14 are core recommendations. It was emphasised in the EPG report that the Commonwealth must recognise changing dynamics of development and human rights in the contemporary world and adapt to these changes. Since then, however, disagreement has arisen over whether or not the report should be released to the public prior to the Commonwealth heads of government meeting (CHOGM) in Perth, Australia, at the end of this month.“Inexplicably, current chair-in-office, the prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, decided that the reports should be kept secret,” Segal said in an opinion piece published here.He went on to say that advocates of keeping the reports secret are really advocates of weakening the Commonwealth.Rambachan takes issue with this.“It is rather astonishing for the prime minister to be associated with any erroneous statement that she might in any way be responsible for weakening the Commonwealth when, in fact the prime minister has done significantly more than any previous chair-in -office to raise the profile of the Commonwealth,” he said in his letter.According to Rambachan, Persad-Bissessar, in the interests of maintaining consensus and not engaging in a unilateral debate in the media, was of the opinion that, as the report was commissioned by the Commonwealth heads of government, they must first be given an opportunity to deliberate before the contents are made public.However, it seems that not all heads of government agree with this approach. Australia’s prime minister, Julia Gillard, the host of the CHOGM, has reportedly indicated that the report should be made public before the summit meeting. Nevertheless, she is said to be constrained to join the Trinidadian prime minister in keeping the report secret for the time being in the interest of “consensus.”According to Sanders, in an opinion piece published here, there is a precedent for the EPG report to be released publicly before the heads of government meeting. When the first EPG report was delivered to the Commonwealth secretary-general twenty-five years ago, it was published four months ahead of the summit meeting, allowing for a full discourse throughout the Commonwealth on its findings about apartheid in South Africa, he said.Sanders and Segal have both drawn attention to what they see as the negative results of the ongoing failure to make the report public.“Instead, some recommendations have been subject to distortion and misinterpretation by representatives of a few governments that mistakenly believe there is some marginal benefit to them in stifling progress on these issues,” Segal said.According to Sanders, the absence of comprehensive information has led to misinterpretations.Rambachan emphasised, however, that Persad-Bissessar “is unwavering in her support of the goals of the report.”“Nonetheless, in her capacity as chairperson-in-office she has been mindful of the need to maintain a spirit of consensus among the Commonwealth member states. As such she has not lobbied for the early release of the report but has instead been compelled to opt for its release at CHOGM,” he said. By Caribbean News Now contributorCaribbean News Nowlast_img

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