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April 8, 1998

Ambassador Michael A. Arneaud, Trinidad and Tobago's permanent representative at the Organization of American States (OAS), was on Wednesday morning formally named chairman of the Permanent Council, the organization's second ranking body. He succeeds Suriname's Ambassador Albert R. Ramdin at the three-month chairmanship.

The new chairman accepted the gavel, stressing the need for the organization to ensure its relevance and efficiency. He made particular mention of the need to address pressing issues such as poverty and unemployment that are prevalent in many of the OAS member countries.

On the matter Caribbean countries' involvement in the OAS, Ambassador Arneaud, the last in a succession of Caribbean diplomats chairing the Council for just over a year now, spoke about the shifts in the OAS mission, from the diplomatic to one set on doing more to lift the standard of living for the less fortunate.

Looking at the future, he expressed his commitment to assisting in the reform process, and to continue the "high standard of work that has been delivered and make sure that we continue to move the organization forward."

Meanwhile, the out-going ambassador reviewed his stint at the leadership of the Council for the past three months, expressing appreciation for the support he had received from OAS Secretary General CÚsar Gaviria, Assistant Secretary General Christopher R. Thomas, and all the delegations and OAS personnel with whom he had to work.

Ambassador Ramdin said he had gained invaluable experience on the workings of the organization, especially having had to chair shortly after being appointed to represent his government before the organization late last year. Major issues he steered included preparations for the reformed General Assembly, the Summits process and the 50th anniversary.

"We have to be very keen in the coming months to see where the Summits process goes," the Suriname diplomat remarked, referring to Caribbean priorities in ensuring technical cooperation is not jeopardized in the reform. On new mandates, he stressed the need for the OAS to identify source of funding before taking on such new roles.

The changing of the guard was witnessed by the OAS secretary general, assistant secretary general, and a number of permanent representatives as well as OAS personnel.

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