Those honoured included the Prime Minister and President of Dominica, who later officially nominated Baroness Scotland as their country’s candidate, despite the fact she has not lived there since she was two.
Last night, Conservative MP James Cleverly led calls for a full investigation into the allegations against Baroness Scotland whose £160,000-a-year political post is second only to the Queen in the Commonwealth hierarchy.
‘The Commonwealth is a vitally important and respected institution and we can’t allow it to be dragged into any kind of scandal. There must be the fullest possible inquiry,’ he said.
The leader of the Opposition in Dominica, Lennox Linton, described Baroness Scotland as ‘opportunistic, deceitful and disgraceful’.
After detailing his concerns in a letter to the Queen, he told the MoS: ‘There is no doubt in my mind that [Baroness] Scotland, Bailey and the Order used the influence of knighthoods to government leaders and heads of state – along with charitable contributions – as part of Scotland’s campaign to become Secretary-General.’ The whole process, he alleged, was ‘utterly corrupt’.
Following last week’s revelations in this newspaper that Bailey obtained an Antiguan knighthood in return for dispensing the Constaninian Order’s own honours – which are not recognised by the Vatican – a Mail on Sunday investigation in the Caribbean and London has also found that:
- Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit was knighted by the Order and given promises of investment just six months before he appeared in London to endorse Baroness Scotland as a Caribbean candidate for Commonwealth Secretary-General;
- Skerrit later renamed a Dominican primary school after Baroness Scotland;
- She caused outrage at the time by saying those who criticised the unpopular Dominican PM should ‘suck salt’ – a deeply offensive Caribbean curse;
- She was appointed as an ‘international relief co-ordinator’ by Skerrit last year before taking her sister to the island on a ‘scoping mission’ financially supported by the British Government;
Bailey and Baroness Scotland acted as delegate and vice-delegate respectively in Britain of the Order, an antiquated Catholic organisation resurrected by Bailey in the 1990s. The knighthoods and damehoods given out by the Order do not allow the holder any titles or privilege.
However, the Order has influential and wealthy backers at home and abroad, including British MPs and the Archbishop of Westminster. Baroness Scotland was invested into the Order in 2003. In June 2015, at the height of her campaign to become Commonwealth Secretary-General, she was promoted to the rank of vice-delegate, only stepping down in April.
Meanwhile, Bailey and members of the Order made 21 trips between 2014 and April this year to Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, St Kitts and St Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Baroness Scotland accompanied Bailey to the Caribbean on at least three of the trips and held three meetings in London and one in Rome with Caribbean leaders on behalf of the Order.
Separately, in the run-up to the Commonwealth election, Baroness Scotland had become increasingly keen to establish her links to her birthplace in Dominica, despite having spent most of her childhood and adult life in Britain, where she became a QC and politician, rising to Attorney-General in Gordon Brown’s Government.
By September 2014 she had gained the trust of Skerrit to such an extent that she represented Dominica at a meeting of Caricom (Caribbean Community) foreign ministers. To Skerrit’s opponents this was extraordinary.
‘She is a sitting member of the [UK] House of Lords, in a position where she was in the Parliament of one country while working for another,’ said Lennox Linton. ‘She clearly went to the Caricom meeting as a way of gaining credibility for the Dominican nomination for the Secretary-General post.’
She was not a popular choice. Most Caribbean countries favoured the ‘consensus’ candidate, the respected Antiguan diplomat Sir Ron Sanders. Antigua’s Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, told the MoS: ‘We take the position that she [Baroness Scotland] was not a Caribbean candidate because her dominant nationality is British.
‘We were quite sure that our candidate Sir Ron Saunders brought superior intellect to the table and far more experience. His contribution to the Caribbean spans his entire working life. In her case she contributed nothing.’
Baroness Scotland publicly denounced thousands of islanders with a deeply insulting Caribbean ‘curse’ at a ceremony where a school was named after her.
Addressing an audience in French-based Creole, widely spoken on Dominica, the newly appointed Commonwealth Secretary-General said critics of Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit should ‘sousay sel’ or ‘suck salt’. The expression is recognised across the Caribbean as a ‘vile condemnation’ to pain and hardship.
Radio host Angelo Allen said: ‘It caused uproar here. This is a curse and the last thing you’d expect to hear from the lips of a British politician. She would never have behaved in such a way in England – but she thought she could get away with it here.’
And Opposition leader Lennox Linton called it ‘disgusting’ and an ‘unjustified act of hostility’. He said: ‘She has effectively made herself part of the political machinery of Roosevelt Skerrit with that statement because you are effectively condemning a people who have the democratic right to disagree with and criticise their prime minister.’
Mr Linton complained about last December’s incident in a letter sent to the Queen, claiming the diplomat’s outburst was a ‘gross violation’ of the Commonwealth Charter and its values of tolerance and respect.
The school in the village of Vieille Case was renamed after the Labour peer weeks after she was elected. ‘No one is quite sure why,’ said Mr Linton.
It was because of this that Linton says Dominica came under pressure from Caricom to drop Baroness Scotland in favour of Sanders. Around this time, November 2014, the peer visited the Caribbean region with Bailey and members of the Order. In Antigua they exchanged honours with dignitaries and promised to contribute to three charitable ‘endeavours’ in conjunction with the island’s Catholic diocese.
But Archbishop Kenneth Richards, who is overseeing the projects, revealed last week that work on two of them was halted last year because only half of the £1.1 million promised was forthcoming.
The third scheme – a new wing for St Joseph’s Academy in the capital St John’s – had to be completed by the start of the school year, so the Church was forced to meet the final cost by borrowing £120,000 from the bank.
Despite this, Bailey later took credit for the completion of the school wing, claiming it had been ‘financed’ by the Order. It is understood that the Order claims it is still paying for this and other projects.
From Antigua, Bailey and the rest of the delegation, including Baroness Scotland, caught a 30-minute flight to Dominica, where the Order lost no time honouring Skerrit and the country’s president. More promises of charitable donations were made.
According to Linton, this came at a crucial juncture. There was speculation that Skerrit was about to switch his support to Sir Ron Sanders. But Linton said: ‘Skerrit – who was facing an election himself the following month – accepted a re-election image boost by way of a knighthood arranged by the Constantinian Order.
At this time the Prime Minister was becoming extremely important to Baroness Scotland. She had to find a way of keeping him on board. It’s all connected. These ruling party politicians were unduly influenced into making sure Scotland was nominated for the top Commonwealth job.’
By May last year Skerrit’s support was assured. At a party in London to launch her campaign he was introduced to disgraced former Nigerian oil minister Diezani Allison Madueke, possibly by Baroness Scotland, and issued her with a diplomatic passport six days later. At the time Madueke was under investigation in Britain over allegations of corruption. Baroness Scotland was elected in Malta in November last year.
A spokesman for Baroness Scotland said: ‘Patricia Scotland was unanimously appointed as Secretary General by the 53 Member States of the Commonwealth because they were persuaded she had all the qualities and attributes which befitted her to discharge that role and was preferred above any other candidate.
‘The malicious allegations, both implicit and overt, made by The Mail on Sunday are totally false, have no basis in fact, are tainted and are being made by individuals who never supported Patricia Scotland’s appointment as Secretary-General.’
Source : Daily Mail UK