THE 53 Commonwealth Heads of Government will elect a new Secretary General this week to replace Don McKinnon. In what is tipped to be a tight race, three candidates are contesting. They are Dr. Mohan Kaul, the chief executive of the Commonwealth Business Council, Kamalesh Sharma, Indiaâ€™s high comm
The Indian High Commissioner to London is the official candidate of the Indian Government. Sharma, 66, is a seasoned diplomat with wide-ranging experience in managing global affairs.
His illustrious career includes prestigious stints as Indiaâ€™s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva and in New York. Educated at Delhi and Cambridge universities, Sharma served in the Indian Foreign Service from 1965 to 2001 before retiring as Indiaâ€™s Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
From 2002 to 2004, he was the United Nations Secretary Generalâ€™s special representative to Timor Leste. In 2004, he was named envoy to Britain.
According to The Indo-Asian News Service (IANS), Sharma has been a member of the Board of Governors of the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Commonwealth Foundation since 2004.
As the first special representative of the UN Secretary-General to independent East Timor, he was directly engaged in building the nation and safeguarding its security.
The Hindu, an online edition of Indiaâ€™s national paper, says Sharma is â€œeminently equipped to undertake this responsibility by virtue of the great interest he has shown in multilateral global affairs and in both South-South and North-South relations and the experience he has gained in these areas in the course of his distinguished diplomatic career, as well as the assignment which he has undertaken on behalf of the United Nations.â€
Sharma is believed to enjoy lots of support both within India and also in other Commonwealth states, a factor that could boost his chances.
â€œIndia is believed to have secured the tacit support of Britain, Australia and New Zealand and a number of other Commonwealth members. Though a contest cannot be ruled out in the event of another country nominating a second candidate, Mr. Sharma is considered the front-runner,â€ says the Hindu.
As the incumbent Don McKinnon is from New Zealand and his predecessor was African, there is also a feeling among some observers that the position could this time go to an Asian, probably Sharma.
The Indo-Asian News Agency says: â€œSharma stands out as the most experienced, the most inclusive and...the most qualified.â€ Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa also floated the idea that all South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation member countries should work for the election of an Indian as the next secretary-general.
The Maltese government has put forward Foreign Minister Michael Frendo. Frendo is the chairman of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) â€“ a committee of nine Commonwealth countries, formed in 1995 at the level of foreign ministers, to police the implementation of common commitments to democracy and human rights.
He holds this position, in which he has been active over last six months. In his career, Dr Frendo has been oriented to the European Union (EU) of which Malta is a member state.
He has been a Member of the House of Representatives of Malta since 1987 and Minister of Foreign Affairs since the 3rd July 2004, having served as Parliamentary Secretary (Minister of State) in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs between March and July 2004.
According to the Maltese Department of Information, Frendo has held various offices in past Governments including as Minister for Transport, Communications and Technology (1994-1996)with responsibility for civil aviation, airports, ports, arterial road construction, science and technology, land transport, shipping, telecommunications and information technology; Minister for Youth and Arts (1992-1994), with responsibility for the Broadcasting, the Arts, Theatre, Sport and Youth; and Parliamentary Secretary (Minister of State) for Youth, Culture and Consumer Protection (1990-1992). In 1995 Michael Frendo served as President of Euro control.
Born on the 29th July 1955, Michael Frendo graduated in Law from the University of Malta in 1977 (LL.D). In 1978/79 he specialised in European Community Law (LL.M) at the Centre for European Legal Studies, University of Exeter, United Kingdom.
In 2002/2003 he represented the Maltese National Parliament as a member of the European Convention (Convention on the Future of Europe) which formulated the text of the new Treaty on a Constitution for Europe under the chairmanship of Valery Giscard dâ€™Estaing. Early in 2003. he became the first Maltese to address the European Parliament, in Maltese.
In April 2003, Frendo was appointed chairman of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Foreign and European Affairs. Frendo is a part time Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Law at the University of Malta and lectures in EU Law, Telecommunications Law and Private International Law.
As Sir Ronald Sanders, a business executive, former Caribbean diplomat and renown publisher on small states in the global community rightly says, the Commonwealthâ€™s future in world affairs will rest on the choice that heads of government make in Kampala in a few days.
â€œFor the Secretary-General will need to give the Commonwealth intellectual leadership, purposeful vision and a will to continue to help the world negotiate the myriad challenges it now faces of global warming, terrorism, and a widening divide between rich and poor. Â
Kaul is the Director General of the Commonwealth Business Council (CBC). He has held this position since the councilâ€™s establishment in Edinburgh in October 1997 by the Commonwealth heads of government.
He has successfully steered this body whose creation was aimed at promoting trade, investment and private sector involvement in Commonwealth countries.
For many years, Dr Kaul has been a corporate director, policy adviser to governments and a consultant to a number of international agencies, academic institutions and public and private sector organisations. He is a Ph.D graduate from the University of Paris, Sorbonne.
â€œDr Kaul has shown a commitment in his work, encouraging government reforms and practices of good governance,â€ says COMNET.IT (The Commonwealth Network of Information Technology and Development).
He was an adviser to the South African government of President Mandela on reform of the public service and has worked in a number of other countries in advisory and consulting assignments. He recently published a book on management reforms in government, An Outsiderâ€™s Inside View, based on his experiences in over 20 countries.
Even though Kaul is standing as an independent candidate, after the Indian Government did not back him, he boasts support from about 30 Commonwealth member states.
The secretary generalâ€™s office
-The new Commonwealth secretary general, who will succeed the present incumbent Don McKinnon of New Zealand, will be elected at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kampala, which is starting on Friday.
-The Commonwealth secretary-general is the chief executive officer of the Commonwealth Secretariat, the main inter-governmental agency of the Commonwealth, and is elected by heads of government for no more than two four-year terms.
-Since the founding of the Commonwealth in 1965, the post of Secretary General has been held by a Canadian, Arnold Smith; a Caribbean, Sir Shridath Ramphal; an African, Emeka Anyaoku and a Pacific representative, Don McKinnon.
Who will be next secretary general?