Government sources yesterday revealed Ki-Moon, 64, was personally invited to attend the summit by Manning and the invitation was sent to UN headquarters in New York earlier in the year.
Trade and Industry Minister Mariano Browne yesterday confirmed Ki-Moon would arrive in Trinidad late Friday night, but unfortunately he will miss the opening ceremony at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Port-of- Spain where US President Barack Obama and other hemispheric leaders are to give addresses.
“Ban Ki-Moon will come in on Friday night and he certainly will be here for all of the plenary (sessions) on Saturday,” Browne said. The minister explained the reason for Ki-Moon’s late arrival is because he has another commitment before he comes to Trinidad. Ki-Moon will visit Haiti tomorrow, where he will join US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a conference hosted by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to help the impoverished Caricom nation.
Clinton and Haiti’s president Rene Preval are also to fly in by Friday for the Port-of-Spain summit after the IDB conference.
Ki-Moon’s presence will mark the first time that a UN Secretary General has ever attended a Summit of the Americas.
The first Summit of the Americas was held in Miami in December 1994. This was before the tenure of Javier Perez De Cuellar of Peru as UN Secretary General, 1982 to 1991. De Cuellar was the only person from the Americas to be elected Secretary General in the 64-year history of the UN.
Ki-Moon’s attendance will certainly increase international attention on the April 17-19 summit which is already heightened because of the presence of personalities like Obama and Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.
Asked if Ki-Moon would attend the summit leaders’ retreat, witness the signing of the Declaration of Commitment of Port-of-Spain and participate in the closing news conference at the Prime Minister’s Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s on Sunday, Browne said: “I don’t know the full schedule for him but I know that he is definitely going to be here.” “He was always doubtful whether he would be able to come but he only confirmed his attendance recently,” Browne added.
Although he will miss the opening ceremony, Ki-Moon will arrive in Trinidad in time to join Manning, Obama and the other 32 Heads of State for a sumptuous dinner of cassava and plantain cake; corn soup with dumplings; an eight ounce tenderloin; arugula mash (potatoes infused with arugula pesto) and local tomato choka at the Hyatt on Saturday evening at 8 pm.
Ki-Moon’s attendance will also be the first official visit to Trinidad and Tobago by a sitting UN Secretary General.
His immediate predecessor Kofi Annan was vacationing in Tobago in 2005 and paid an unofficial visit to Manning at the Office of the Prime Minister which was located at Whitehall at the time.
Ki-Moon was elected UN Secretary General on October 13, 2006, replacing Annan, and assumed office on January 1, 2007. Born in South Korea on June 13, 1944, Ki-Moon has been a career diplomat for the last 37 years. At the time of his election as UN Secretary General, Ki- Moon was his country’s Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister.
His longstanding ties with the UN date back to 1975 when he was attached to the South Korean Foreign Ministry’s UN Division. That work expanded over the years with assignments as South Korea’s first secretary at its permanent mission to the UN in New York and South Korea’s ambassador to Austria in 1999. In that year, Ki-Moon also served as chairman of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organisation.
As Chef de Cabinet during his country’s presidency of the UN General Assembly from 2001 to 2002, Ki-Moon facilitated the prompt adoption of the resolution of the first session, condemning the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the US and strengthening the assembly’s operations.
As Secretary General, Ki-Moon has discussed the issue of global warming on several occasions with former US President George W Bush and convinced Sudanese President to allow peacekeeping troops to help restore order in Darfur.