Thursday, April 26, 2007

Outgoing Commonwealth chief says successor need not be Asian

KUALA LUMPUR: Outgoing Commonwealth chief Don McKinnon said Thursday his successor need not necessarily come from Asia, amid expectations the region should be given the post for the first time.

The Commonwealth secretary-general has not come from any of the eight Asian member countries since the 53-member grouping of former British colonies was established in 1965.

McKinnon said Commonwealth leaders would want the "best person'' to replace him when his term as secretary-general expires at the end of March 2008.

"There is an assumption that it could be an Asian candidate because Asia has not had a secretary-general,'' he told The Associated Press.

"The message will be, sure put up an Asian candidate ... but Commonwealth leaders would want to ensure that he or she is a credible and good candidate,'' he said.

"The candidate doesn't necessarily have to come from Asia.''

McKinnon, 63, a former foreign minister and deputy prime minister in New Zealand, has held the post since 1999.

His successor will be elected by Commonwealth leaders at their annual summit in Uganda in November.

So far, only Malta has nominated its Foreign Affairs Minister Michael Frendo for the post.

McKinnon, who is visiting Malaysia on the last leg of a Southeast Asia tour, said he expects more candidates to emerge.

With Asia accounting for two-thirds of the group's nearly two billion population, he said Asian candidates would be seriously considered.

"There are a lot of talented people in this region,'' he said.

"India and other countries are thinking about it. We will have to wait and see.''

The Commonwealth's Asian members are Bangladesh, Brunei, India, Malaysia, the Maldives, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Singapore.

Source: The Star

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