Searching for a new CARICOM chief

A special search committee appointed by Caribbean leaders last year to hire a new secretary general for the 15-nation Caribbean trade bloc is expected to have a short list in time for a special summit in Guyana late next month officials said at the weekend.

The post has become vacant because Tobago-born Edwin Carrington, 73, quit abruptly last year, days after a discussion about the need for new blood at the July summit in Jamaica.

Economist Carrington had held the position for 18 years, making him easily the longest serving chief executive since the bloc was formed in 1973. Officials close to Carrington say he felt compelled to quit after the Jamaican delegation asked questions about how much longer he would have served, having already completed three-five-year terms at the helm.

Leaders are scheduled to hold a special two-day summit in Guyana from May 21 to discuss a series of issues not completed at the half year conference in Grenada in early March including a new governance structure, the position of secretary general and the controversial and highly sensitive topic of free travel within the bloc.

Barbados and some other states are in recoil about free travel within the community for some categories of workers.

Confidence that the system would work was not helped by a series of very negative issues out of Barbados in recent weeks including the alleged sexual assault on a young Jamaican woman, and an announcement by authorities that visitors and illegal aliens would no longer get access to free health care unless in emergencies.

Five candidates are in the running for the top post at the Guyana-based headquarters including trade chief Irwin La Rocque of Dominica, former Deputy Secretary General Carla Barnett of Belize, Bernadette Lewis, secretary general of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Telecommunications Union, Harold McDonald, Suriname’s envoy to the United Nations and Edwin Laurent of St. Lucia.

Search committee members have completed video conferencing interviews with the applicants in the past month and are to submit the list to leaders for consideration in a month’s time.

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