Commonwealth Summit Opens In Trinidad

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[Global: Commonwealth]

--The Commonwealth Heads of State and Government Meeting, otherwise known as CHOGM formally opened here today by its titular head, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.

Queen Elizabeth landed at Piarco International Airport yesterday afternoon and was welcomed by the Trinidad and Tobago President, George Maxwell Richards who was with his wife Jean. She was accompanied by her husband the Duke of Edinburgh, and Prince Philip.

Prime Minister, Patrick Augustus Mervyn Manning, who leads the governing Peoples National Party (PNP), was also at hand to greet the British alongside his wife Senator Hazel. 

CHOGM is a biennial summit meeting of the Heads of Government of all Commonwealth countries. It comprises the world’s largest, smallest, richest and poorest nation states and is home to an approximate two billion people of diverse faiths and ethnicities.

When setting it up in 1949, it was meant to be an organization whose members had at one time or the other, been part of the British empire and that they shared one similar language; English.

It was agreed that all member countries would be free and equal members of the Commonwealth of Nations. As membership has grown, heads of government agreed two years ago on a formal criteria and process of membership which has seen countries that had no historical links with the British Empire becoming members. The latest member to this group is expected to be Rwanda, a former Belgian colony the majority of whose citizens speak French.

It is a foregone conclusion that its membership application will be approved by this Sunday. Sources close to Black Star News said the Rwanda flag has been brought from Kigali and is waiting to be hoisted alongside all the other 53 present members.

Addressing a press conference yesterday at the International Finance Centre at the Waterfront Plaza in Port of Spain, Manning said CHOGM will this year be attended by three non-members in the names of French President Nicholas Sakorzy, Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen who heads a coalition of the Liberal Party (Venstre) and the Conservative Peoples Party (Konservative Folke Parti), and the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, indicating that the group’s influence continues to grow.

Manning revealed that the two issues that will be high on the CHOGM summit will be climate change and the emergence of non-communicable diseases. He hoped that the presence of President Sakorzy, Prime Minister Rasmussen and the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, would add impetus to reaching a common ground on these two issues. He thanked Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma who was with him at the press conference for having worked very hard with the Trinidad and Tobago government to ensure the success of this year’s CHOGM. 

Manning said he was confident that this would be one of the most successful CHOGM summits ever. Earlier in the day, he had closed the Commonwealth Business Forum that brings together businessmen from all member states. The Prime Minister said his PNP government was justified in hosting this summit so soon after hosting in April this year, the 5th summit of all Americas. In an exclusive interview with Dr. Anslem London the Trinidad and Tobago Secretary for Finance and Enterprise Development, said he was very optimistic about his country’s future and added that the CBF had made it possible for the PNP government to make several business deals with various business firms during the Forum—Dr. London’s interview appears this weekend on

Schools and all other educational institutes as well as public offices, will remain closed today as the Queen once again braves the intense heat to open the ceremony. The venue is Trinidad and Tobago’s newest building, the National Academy for the Performing Arts Theatre. Manning told journalists here that it had been described to him by its Chinese builders, Shanghai Construction, that it was better than the Sydney Opera, exceeded the Culture House in Taipei and that it was better than the National Theatre in Beijing.

Meanwhile the pre-CHOGM Foreign Minister Meeting rather ended in a farce when a press conference scheduled at the Hilton Hotel where the meeting has been taking place, was abruptly cancelled at the last minute. No reason was immediately available for the sudden cancellation of what is usually normal procedure at CHOGM summits.


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