Congratulations, Sir Ronald
June 23, 2002
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The latest Guyana-born CARICOM national, and perhaps a unique example of this is the London-based High Commissioner of Antigua and Barbuda, Sir Ronald Sanders.
The 54-year-old Sanders, a former leading broadcaster and Board member of UNESCO, author of a number of monographs and also Chief Foreign Affairs Representative with ministerial rank in his adopted twin-island homeland, has for a number of years been a very familiar face and vigorous participant at meetings of CARICOM's officials and ministers.
The uniqueness of his highly prestigious award of a knighthood in the Queen's annual Birthday Honours roll, as announced on June 15, resides in the fact that he now holds two knighthoods: One from Antigua and Barbuda (Knight Commander of the Order of the Nation (KCN), and now a Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George (KCMG).
Before that, and while remaining quite active in the service of his adopted homeland, Antigua and Barbuda, and the Caribbean Community in general at regional and international fora, whether on tourism, foreign affairs, trade, aid and the off-shore financial sector, Sanders was awarded in 1996 with the Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St, Michael and St. George (CMG) by the Queen, who is also head of the Commonwealth.
This was long after the father of his Guyanese-born wife, Susan, daughter of the internationally famous and former distinguished Commonwealth Secretary General, Sir Shridath Ramphal, had been knighted by the Queen while serving as a Foreign Minister of the government of the late President Forbes Burnham.
Sanders' honour should in no way be linked, even by the most cynical and petty among us, as having anything to with his familial relationship with Shridath Ramphal, or for any other reason than that, he has obtained this latest distinguished award from the United Kingdom in recognition of his work as a diplomat. Even his detractors at home and elsewhere would be aware of how he has significantly contributed to advancing the interests of the Caribbean region, including, naturally that of his adopted homeland and, as made public, in "enhancing UK-Caribbean relationship".
Twice High Commissioner to London for Antigua and Barbuda, itself an unusual experience in the field of diplomacy, Sanders has been among the key players in fostering what has now emerged as a regular structured dialogue every two years - the Caribbean-UK Forum. The last such event took place only recently in Georgetown, hosted by the Government of Guyana, in cooperation with the Caribbean Community Secretariat and the British Foreign Office.
It is also of significance to note that one of the important members of the UK delegation to that Forum was Baroness Amos (Valerie Amos), herself a daughter of Guyana, currently serving as Parliamentary Under Secretary for the Commonwealth, Caribbean, Africa and the UK's Overseas Territories as well as for Consular Affairs in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Before the Guyanese-born British Baroness had risen to such influence and make us all proud, there was that very outspoken, militant Guyana-born political figure of the British Labour Party, Bernie Grant.
The late Bernie, long a champion of the interests of workers and particularly of the injustices suffered by the non-white working class, was the first Caribbean national to have been elected to the Britain's House of Commons. He died on April 8, 2000 at the age of 56. He was the Labour MP for Tottenham.
But none of the above in any way detracts from Sanders' richly deserved honour, for the reasons given. And, therefore, we are also well pleased, as the government of Antigua and Barbuda would be, to applaud his British Knighthood, although Guyana has long ago dispensed with such an official award. We have our own highest honour that of the Order of Excellence (OE), only recently bestowed on the new Guyana-born President of the Caribbean Development Bank, Dr. Compton Bourne.
The long and distinguished record of public service rendered by Sanders, which may never be publicly admitted though often privately alluded to in official circles across the Caribbean region, started back in 1978 after he left the field of broadcast journalism to become adviser to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Antigua and Barbuda, Lester Bird, now among the longest serving MPs and heads of government of the Eastern and Southern Caribbean.
Congratulations Sir (Sir) Ronald Michael Sanders, KCMG, KCN.