C’wealth Gets First Woman Scribe
HISTORY was made yesterday at the ongoing 24th Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meeting, (CHOGM) in Malta, when the first woman, Baroness Patricia Scotland from the Dominican Republic emerged the new Secretary-General of the 66-year-old organisation.
The announcement of her election was made by the Prime Minister of Malta, Dr. Joseph Muscat at a well-attended press conference at the Radisson Blu Golden Sands. She succeeds the out-going Kamalesh Sharma from India, who has completed his two-term tenure of eight years as the Commonwealth scribe.
Addressing a press conference after a closed-door session by heads of government, the Prime Minister Muscat, flanked by the out-going scribe, announced the appointment.
Others who ran for the office are Sir Ronald Sanders from Antigua and Ms. Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba from Botswana. Masire-Mwamba has previously served as Deputy Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, having served two terms under Sharma.
The Secretary-General designate thanked the 53-member countries for considering her worthy of such a high office and asked for the cooperation of member states.
The opening, which took place at the Mediterranean Conference Centre ((MCC) in the city, amidst tight security, had in attendance most of the leaders of the group, notably Queen Elizabeth 11 of England; her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Phillip; her son, Prince of Wales, Charles; and his wife, the Duchess of Cromwell, Camilla Parker Bowles; British Prime Minister, Mr. David Cameron; and President Muhammadu Buhari among others.
Buhari arrived the venue at 9.53 am, four minutes ahead of the British royal couple, who arrived at 9.57 am, and whose arrivals were quickly followed by speeches by the Muscat, Karma, Sirisena and the Queen, who is the Head of the Commonwealth.
As expected, the twin issues of terrorism and climate change formed the crux of discussions at yesterday’s opening event.
In his welcome address, Muscat spoke on the urgent need for the Commonwealth to tackle the problem of terrorism and radicalism in the world, as they are major challenges facing many regional blocks across the globe.
He said: “We live at a time where young people, within the Commonwealth and beyond, are attracted to join terrorist groups that want to destroy democracy and our way of life. Part of the immediate fight is, unfortunately, and necessarily, of military nature.”
Acknowledging that military strategies are the common tools deployed by world leaders in fighting terrorism, he nevertheless stressed that “on the long term, there are much more powerful weapons that need to be unleashed to eradicate radicalisation and its causes. They are called education and employment”.
French President Francois Hollande was expected to address Commonwealth leaders later yesterday ahead of the United Nations (UN) climate change conference beginning in Paris on Monday.