The battle lines have apparently been drawn between the different camps within the sub-regional Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) on the selection of a new Governor for the St. Kitts-based Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB).
THE NEW TODAY understands that two camps are leading the charge – one headed by Grenada’s Dr. Keith Mitchell with support from Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda.
This faction is giving their support to current Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Timothy Antoine who is looking to take over the post from Sir Dwight Venner who retired from the post at the end of November.
The other challenger is St. Lucia’s Dr. Hyginus Leon who has been working with the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) for over 20 years.
Dr. Leon is reportedly getting support from his Prime Minister, Dr. Kenny Anthony and two others – Dominica’s Roosevelt Skerritt and Dr. Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent & The Grenadines.
This newspaper has received reports that St. Kitts’ Prime Minister, Dr. Timothy Harris is wavering in his support for either of the two contenders for the top job in the ECCB.
A lot of behind the scene lobbying is taking place by the two camps to garner support for their respective candidates.
The target is the two British territories of Montserrat and Anguilla whose votes are critical to the outcome of the dilemma to fill the vacancy left by Sir Dwight.
A meeting of the Eastern Caribbean Monetary Council comprised of the Ministers of Finance of ECCB member territories held last week Monday in Basseterre failed to resolve the issue as no consensus was reached on a single candidate.
It appears that if the Ministers decide to settle the ECCB Governor job on a majority votes basis that the St. Lucian candidate will get the nod.
The information reaching us is that Dr. Mitchell will be hard pressed to get a majority of the council members to vote in favour of Antoine to take charge of the affairs of the ECCB.
There is an ideological drift coming into play among the regional heads of government.
The Gonsalves/Anthony/Skerritt group consider themselves as “progressives” while Dr. Mitchell as the longest serving PM in the OECS is viewed as leader of the centrists that belong to the now dormant Caribbean Democratic Union (CDU).
This ideological block was formed in the aftermath of the demise of the 1979-83 Grenada Revolution and its key members were leading right wing leaders as Edward Seaga of Jamaica, John Compton of St. Lucia, Tom Adams of Barbados and Mary Eugenia Charles of Dominica.
These two ideological blocs took different positions a few weeks ago on support for a single candidate for the post of Secretary-General of the Commonwealth at a meeting in Malta.
The Mitchell/Brown group gave their support to Antigua’s candidate Sir Ronald Sanders, the Guyanese diplomat who is serving as Antigua’s Ambassador to the United States.
The battle was won by the candidate proposed by Dominica’s Roosevelt Skerritt who is Baroness Patricia Scotland, although born in Dominica once served in the British Parliament.
The other factor to take into consideration is that Dr. Mitchell does not have a history of lobbying successfully in the region for any Grenadian to occupy the top jobs on offer in regional organisations associated with CARICOM and the OECS.
Most of these jobs are held exclusively by St. Lucians and Vincentians through the backing of their respective governments.
In addition, the ideological battle lines have long been drawn among the OECS leaders especially when words surfaced that PM Mitchell had bad-mouthed Dr. Gonsalves and other OECS leaders with a former U.S Ambassador to Barbados on relations with Venezuela.
The Wikileaks documents gave a lengthy expose in which the Grenadian leader accused Gonsalves and the others of bad-mouthing him to late Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez on possible aid to St. George’s.
Timothy Antoine would have been in the jockey seat if Gonsalves had lost the recent elections in St. Vincent and the main opposition National Democratic Party (NDP) of Arnhim Eustace took over as the latter is part of the CDU alliance with NNP and other so-called centrist parties.
There is another issue to consider since Mr. Antoine has now served notice that he wants to move on and get out of the Ministry of Finance.
The question is not so much about a likely replacement but how much energy can one expect from the current PS Finance in his critical job at a time when Grenada is in the middle of a Structural Adjustment Programme?
Also, did it ever cross Mr. Antoine’s mind to do the decent and honourable thing and follow in the footstep of the third candidate who was short-listed Dominica’s Dr. Valda Henry and withdraw from the race as the Search Party had recommended Dr. Leon for the post?