Outgoing Secretary-General of CARICOM Irwin LaRocque.
Caribbean Community

Sometime in the middle of next month, the Caribbean Community’s council of ministers will meet online to, among other matters, review the list of applicants for the top civil servant’s job in the region and all roads appear to be leading to a woman heading up the bloc’s secretariat for the very first time.

Nominations for the position of chief executive are scheduled to close at the end of this month and the word making the rounds among governments and diplomatic missions is that it will be tough for the selection panel to avoid giving strong consideration to the slew of highly qualified and competent women whose support teams say they will throw their hat in the ring.

And once the council shortlists the best of the lot and sends its recommendations to heads of government scheduled to meet in May, also virtually, the race to replace Dominican Irwin LaRocque would be nearing a conclusion, unless the team of leaders deem the applicants as unsuitable.

Officials say that both the council and the leaders want to wrap up the selection process sometime in May to at least give the new incumbent a month or so to settle down and prepare for the main heads of government summit in early July.

An early indication of how the ‘horses’ might run emerged last weekend when veteran Surinamese diplomat and long serving deputy secretary general, Monarma Soeknandan dropped more than a veiled hint about being interested in moving up to the number one position. She has been in the number two slot at the Guyana-based secretariat since 2014.

She feels that authorities in Suriname should not miss this golden opportunity to push the candidature of one of its own now that the lobby for the first women secretary general is gaining momentum.

Currently home in Suriname, Soeknandan spoke to the local Star News only publication at the weekend and did not rule out running. She said he has the experience and ability.

“Much more important is whether the person is suitable and competent. I leave that conclusion to you. The question is will Suriname finally go for a high position to leave a mark in the region. I have been able to give my strength to all councils, and I have also been able to represent Suriname in the heads of state and in the prime ministerial sub committees meetings. In order to be able to do this, there has always been close cooperation with and in the home front with all actors- none excepted,” she said.

Eight men from various parts of the region including Trinidad, Jamaica, Barbados and the nine-nation Organization of Eastern Caribbean States sub grouping have run the daily affairs of the region since CARICOM was formed back in July 1973. Insiders say things are about to change. The so-called outer bloc member states like The Bahamas, Belize, Suriname and Haiti have not as yet been able to have one of their nationals head up the secretariat but it seems to be heading Belize’s way this time.

Soeknandan apart, many in the region are beginning to root for another former female deputy secretary general — Carla Barnett of Belize, willing her to send in her resume even if she is reluctant.

Barnett has vast experiences dealing with things CARICOM, having not only served as the first female in the number two position but also as the deputy director of the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), ex governor of the Belizean Central Bank, her country’s financial secretary and now senator of Belize’s upper house. She is a qualified economist.

Already known to and respected by many of the leaders and high officials in the region and having already served a five year term at the secretariat, officials say she would be the likely front runner if an application is sent to the council and later to leaders.

Other names being bandied about include Antigua’s high profile Ambassador to the US, Ronald Sanders, dour, current assistant secretary general, Jamaican Joseph Cox and June Soomer, the St. Lucian first female secretary general of the moribund Association of Caribbean States (ACS).

Earlier this year, bloc Chairman and Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago, Keith Rowley did mention the imminent changing of the guard as he congratulated outgoing Secretary General, Irwin LaRocque for a job well done.

“I would like to put on record today that you, with your quintessential cool, calm and steady manner, have served our community with distinction. Well done,” Rowley said as leaders had briefly turned their attention towards succession. LaRocque has served two consecutive five year terms.