The Caribbean Community (Caricom) will this year be seeking a secretary-general to replace the retiring Ambassador Irwin LaRocque.
In his opening remarks at the recent 32nd Intersessional Meeting of Caricom Heads of Government, the chair, Prime Minister Keith Rowley of Trinidad and Tobago, mentioned that the tenure of the secretary-general would end in August, and he commended Ambassador LaRocque for his unwavering commitment to regional integration.
“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.” LaRocque has been in the post since 2011 and has served two five-year terms.
In the communique of the 32nd Intersessional Meeting, held February 24-25, there was no mention of the secretary-general demitting office and of the start of a selection process for his successor. Ambassador LaRocque will still be in office, July 5-6, when the 42nd regular conference of Caricom heads will be held, chaired by Antigua and Barbuda, and at that conference, the matter of his departure and replacement should be more formally addressed.
Sir Edwin Carrington, who had been secretary-general, demitted office in December 2010. In 2011, Senator Maxine McLean of Barbados, then minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade, was appointed to head a selection committee for the new secretary-general and the post was widely advertised. It is likely that deputy secretary-general Ambassador Manorma Soeknandan of Suriname will act in the post while there is a search for the new secretary-general. This has happened before.
Article 24 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas states that the secretary-general shall be appointed by the conference, on the recommendation of the Community Council, for a term not exceeding five years.
Since 1973, there have been eight secretaries-general. These were William Demas, Trinidad and Tobago; Sir Alistair McIntyre, Grenada; Joseph Tyndall, Guyana (Acting); Kurleigh King, Barbados; Roderick Rainford, Jamaica; Edwin Carrington, Trinidad and Tobago; Lolita Applewhaite, Barbados (Acting); and, currently, Irwin LaRocque, Dominica.
Ambassador LaRocque took the helm of the Caricom Secretariat at a very difficult time for the regional integration process. His nearly 10-year tenure was fraught with challenges: The failure to make significant progress in implementing the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) now in its 20th year; tensions between Jamaica and other member states over the movement of skilled nationals and immigration issues generally; difficulties in coordinating foreign policy issues; crises in Haiti; trade disputes; questions about the admission of new members and dealing with external trade agreements and negotiations, among other things.
In addition, Secretary-General LaRocque, as chief executive officer, has had to deal with serious budget shortfalls as member states have been tardy in paying their contributions. There have also been continuing difficulties in adequately staffing the secretariat with needed technical experts and to pay internationally competitive salaries in what was considered a hardship post. This also affected the ability to acquire more modern equipment and services, to be represented overseas, and to travel to meetings.