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Editorial: Will the Commonwealth elect such a person as leader?
Published on November 26, 2015 Email To Friend    Print Version

baroness_scotland3.jpg

For several weeks, Caribbean News Now has been aware that a smear campaign in the British press was being planned against Sir Ronald Sanders, Antigua and Barbuda’s nominee for the post of Commonwealth secretary-general at elections on Friday at the Commonwealth Summit in Malta.

Sure enough, the malicious publication by the UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper of a story repeating unsubstantiated hearsay, rumour and conjecture, timed for two days before the election, is clearly designed to affect Sir Ronald’s chances. He was a clear front-runner in the contest, which included British baroness and sitting member of the House of Lords, Patricia Scotland.

Contrast such hearsay, rumour and conjecture with some actual facts reported by the same Telegraph newspaper in 2009:

Baroness Scotland, then UK attorney general, was placed under investigation by Britain’s Home Office after she admitted employing an illegal immigrant as her housekeeper.

She was then prosecuted under a law that she helped steer through parliament and which clearly states that “unknowingly” employing illegal workers is no defence in itself. She could face a fine of up to £10,000 if convicted, the Telegraph pointed out.

The Telegraph later reported that Scotland was “fined £5,000 over illegal immigrant housekeeper”.

When Caribbean News Now previously referred to her “conviction”, we were immediately attacked by her VERY expensive lawyers in London, who claimed that we incorrectly portrayed “Baroness Scotland's unknowing employment of an illegal immigrant, and the mischaracterisation of the administrative penalty for the technical breach of not taking a photocopy of the fraudulent passport, as a ‘conviction’.”

However, if the Telegraph can report in 2009 that, “if convicted”, she faced a fine of up to £10,000 and she was in the event fined £5,000, does that not lead to the inescapable conclusion that she was in fact “convicted”?

Further, Baroness Scotland had a previous conviction for careless driving, the Daily Telegraph later disclosed. To have a “previous conviction” one must of necessity have a subsequent conviction, namely that which resulted in the fine of £5,000 for employing an illegal immigrant housekeeper.

We responded to Scotland’s lawyers as follows:

Please explain and clarify the legal process in Britain, where you assert that being fined for a breach of the law is not a “conviction”. What should it be characterised as?

Further, have you demanded that the Criminal Law and Justice Weekly remove its reference to Baroness Scotland's "recent criminal conviction" as being “highly defamatory”? Have you demanded that the BBC and The Independent remove their references to Baroness Scotland "breaking the law" or required the Telegraph to remove its reference to her "previous conviction" in the context of what you assert as her “technical breach” of the law?

Have you required John Quigley, a partner at William Sturges & Co. to remove his critique of Baroness Scotland's claim of a "technical breach" of the law as being meaningless and having no validity in law? Have you demanded that the Daily Mail remove its story headlined “BARONESS SHAMELESS” about the same hitherto unknown legal concept of a “technical breach” of the law?

If you have not made such demands, we can only assume that you and by extension Baroness Scotland are in reality seeking to intimidate and terrorise us as a small Caribbean regional publication since our recent references to these still extant statements now become inconvenient to Baroness Scotland’s campaign for the position of Commonwealth secretary general and not because they were or are defamatory when published by better known publications or at all.

No response was ever received.

In contrast to Baroness Scotland’s actual criminal history, which for the benefit of her lawyers means “relating to unlawful acts or their punishment”, Sir Ronald Sanders has never been convicted, charged or even questioned in relation to any alleged criminal activity.

Nevertheless, a discredited report written in 2009 and rejected outright by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in Antigua is now being peddled by the British media with exquisite and malicious timing on the eve of the Commonwealth election.

In furtherance of the Scotland smear campaign against Sanders, even though the Telegraph was compelled to reveal that Sir Ronald had been completely exonerated at the outset by the competent legal authorities in Antigua, the Telegraph “journalist” nevertheless published sections of the rejected and discredited report.

In fact, the DPP wrote to the Antigua police and other government authorities saying that allegations made against Sir Ronald were “seriously defective” and “disclose no offence”. The Antigua Police Commissioner has also written to Sir Ronald’s lawyers saying that a notice saying he was “a person of interest” should never have happened, adding: “I hereby confirm that the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda had no interest in interviewing Sir Ronald Sanders and that there are no current or pending investigations that involve him in any way.”

Sanders’ lawyers told the Telegraph “it is a matter of profound concern” that the story is being published at a time when Sir Ronald is standing for election for the position of Commonwealth secretary-general.

The prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, said that he had been made aware that the smear campaign was being planned. He emphasized that the newspaper story is part of a deliberate and malicious smear campaign by persons with a vested interest in the election.

In conclusion, on the one hand, we have Sir Ronald Sanders, a genuine Caribbean candidate for the post of Commonwealth secretary general, who has never been convicted, charged or even questioned in relation to any alleged criminal activity.

On the other hand, we have a pretend Caribbean candidate in the shape of Baroness Scotland, who even the Royal Commonwealth Society has to admit is “from the United Kingdom”, and who:

• Has at least one criminal conviction;

• Attempted to suppress freedom of expression in the region she claims to represent by bullying and intimidating us as a small Caribbean regional publication while ignoring the exact same references in mainstream British media; and

• Engaged in a thoroughly reprehensible and despicable smear campaign against one of her fellow candidates based on false and discredited hearsay, rumour and conjecture.

This, in our opinion, speaks volumes as to her real character rather than the public persona she would like to present.

Will the Commonwealth heads of government really elect such a person as its next leader?
 
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Comments:

Carson C Cadogan:

This article is to pull down a woman. It would appear that women must never advance in this male domoinated World

Editor's note:
This has absolutely nothing to do with gender but everything to do with decency, probity and integrity. No one should get a pass in these areas just because she’s a woman. If gender is paramount, then support Ms Masire of Botswana, who has conducted an honourable campaign, unlike Baroness Scotland.

David Davies:

I hardly think that those supporting the candidature of Sir Ronald Saunders for the post of Secretary General of the Commonwealth can criticise the suitability of Baroness Scotland for the position when many in the Caribbean still have concerns about the possible embarrassment to the Region that may arise in the future from the allegations of criminality levelled against Sir Ronald arising from the Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries Co Ltd (IHI) Japan multimillion dollar fraud scandal. You say that the Baroness has questions to answer. Well many of us in the Caribbean think that Sir Ronald also has questions to answer. The Daily Telegraph article makes some serious allegations that seem well evidenced. Instead of dismissing this article as a smear why not refute the allegations made in the article with some facts. Did he or did he not while serving as Antiguan High Commissioner in London receive monthly payments of ÂŁ10,000 from his former employer Bruce Rappaport, the alleged architect of the alleged IHI fraud against the Government of Antigua? It is alleged that Sir Ronald received a total of $1,398,492 from Rappaport paid through Bellwood Service, a Panamanian company owned by Sir Ronald. Is it usual for Antiguan High Commissioners to set up Panamanian Companies to receive payments? What were these payments received by Sir Ronald for? Let's have some answers.

As for the reported criminal convictions of the Baroness, I think that you protest too much. I understand she employed a Tongan maid who had overstayed her residence permit in the UK. Hardly comparable to the allegations of multi-million dollar fraud that were levelled against Sir Ronald. Your attempt to contrast her conviction with the "hearsay, rumour and conjecture" surrounding the alleged fraud of Sir Ronald is laughable to those of us who live in Caribbean and see with our own eyes on a daily basis the corruption of our police, public prosecutors and judiciary. We all know that in the Caribbean "big fish" and those with the right political friends can commit rape, theft, drug smuggling and money laundering with impunity. The Baroness was convicted because she was living in a country where no one is above the law. If our politicians behaved in the UK the way they behave in their little Caribbean kingdoms many would now be serving time in prison.

As for your continued questioning of Baroness Scotland's Dominican background, isn't Sir Ronald really a Guyanese residing in Barbados and London? How much time does he spend in Antigua compared to London? His only link with Antigua seems to be the fact that he was once wanted for questioning by the Antiguan police and his Antiguan diplomatic appointments, one of which gave rise to his alleged implication in the allegations of fraud and money laundering that surrounded Lester Bird and his administration.

Finally your attack on the Baroness in a previous editorial, questioning her Christian faith and how this may impact on her role as Secretary General was beneath contempt and an insult to all Roman Catholics in the Caribbean and Commonwealth. And you accuse the Daily Telegraph of a smear campaign! Is that really the best you can do?

Sir Ronald Saunders has many questions to answer. Instead of continually attacking Baroness Scotland why don't you press Saunders to answer these questions so that the Heads of Commonwealth States may have the full facts about this candidate when they come to vote on Friday. Until then your headline"Will the Commonwealth elect such a person as leader?" would appear to have more relevance to the candidature of Sir Ronald Saunders than it does to that of Baroness Scotland.

Vinciman:

Editor, based on the editorials heading and under the circumstances, this decency, probity, integrity, think you trying to promote doesn’t fly with me and is highly questionable and debatable. Moreover, I’m not a big fan of this contest either.

Anyhow, what’s the difference really? Both are equally qualified to “carry out” whatever. But it seems the baroness aint no dame, (well not yet) in spite of her having more “royal experience” as a sitting member of “The House Of Lords”. All be it, in spite of our (SVG's) governments objection to Baroness Scotland as Secretary General, and upon serious reflections, I personally think we should choose them both simply based on merit,seriously; one’s a “Baroness” the other a “Sir”, both Caribbean born. How bad could that be within the context really? They both will “have privileged access to the sovereign”, and the more Caribbean "colored" folks we have in higher office within the “mix-up”, the better it could be for us Caribbean folks; well, it’s supposed to be. Otherwise it’s just a “contest” of mythical proportions.

On the other hand as mentioned before … I “clearly understand Dominica's position and can't blame them for looking out for their own…” Ah just hope Dominica unto something here!

Roland:

I tried my best over the past several weeks to not post a comment here during the unabated and calculated attacks by Caribbean News Now in its agenda (which by the way have been ongoing for over a year now)to malign the good name of Baroness Scotland (Dominican BORN with BOTH Dominican and Antiguan parentage and a distinguished daughter of the Caribbean soil notwithstanding her having spent most of her time resident in the UK). I kept quiet recently because I knew at the end good sense would prevail, and indeed so it has. Thanks CNN, but you have done your candidate Sir Saunders no good by your relentless attacks against a fellow Caribbean sister. Baroness Scotland has infact emerged as the New Secretary General of the Commonwealth. I applaud the PM of Dominica for standing up for his own even in the face of criticisms from fellow Caricom colleagues. He was right. They (including CNN were wrong. At least the rest of the Commonwealth of Nations saw it that way. Now let's end the nonsense and move on with dealing with pertinent issues facing our region. Can CNN lead the way through good journalism for a change? I won't hold my breath. It's my turn to gloat though. Take that CNN!!!!

Carson C Cadogan:

Well done Baroness Scotland.

The better person won.
http://www.barbadostoday.bb/2015/11/27/baroness-scotland-is-new-commonwealth-secretary-general/


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