KINGSTON, April 2, 2022 - Exactly one month after CARICOM Heads of Government meeting in Belize committed their overwhelming support to the re-election of Baroness Baroness Patricia Scotland of Dominica as Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Government of Jamaica has broken ranks and has announced the candidacy of Senator Kamina Johnson Smith for the post of Secretary-General of the Commonwealth.
This has not gone down well with many CARICOM Heads, including Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne who has expressed his displeasure with Jamaica's candidacy, calling it a monumental error. He told CMC that “Those who seek to divide and rule, are encouraging Jamaica to present a candidate in opposition to the current Secretary General, who is serving on a CARICOM rotation.”
Only a month ago, the matter came up for discussion at the The Thirty-Third Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) that was was held on 1-2 March 2022 in Belize, at which Jamaica was present.
The communique of that Inter-Sessional informed that "Heads of Government expressed their overwhelming support for the re-election of Baroness Patricia Scotland as Secretary-General of The Commonwealth."
One delegate, who asked to remain anonymous, told "Wiredja" that no member state expressed any desire to oppose Baroness Scotland and observed that the candidate being proposed by Jamaica, was the country's representative at the CARICOM meeting in the absence of prime minister Andrew Holness.
He said Jamaica's decision to field a candidate at this time was unprincipled, and could put the country at odds with other Member States, particularly in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, OECS.
The decision on whether there should be a change in the Secretary-General is to be made during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, scheduled to take place from 20th to 25th June 2022 in Kigali, Rwanda.
Kenya, whose defence minister, Monica Juma, was nominated for the post in a surprise move last year which was said to have the backing of the British Foreign Office, has withdrawn her nomination, and is instead supporting the incumbent, Dominican-born Baroness Patricia Scotland who is on a CARICOM Rotation.
Scotland, a QC, became the first female attorney general in 2007 under the Labour government of Gordon Brown. She is the sixth Commonwealth secretary general and has been in office since 1 April 2016.
Incumbents usually serve two four-year terms, however, her renomination was delayed when the Commonwealth summit set for 2020 in Kigali, Rwanda, was twice postponed.
The British Foreign Office is said to have lost confidence in her leadership after a series of allegations about her leadership style. Britain also rejected an attempt to renominate Scotland automatically in 2020, saying a private canvass of Commonwealth countries had shown she did not have majority support, and adding she may face a challenge.
The Commonwealth comprises 54 countries, most of them former British colonies, encompassing almost a third of the world’s population. It is however felt that the of the Boris Johnson Conservative Government is not entirely enamored with Bartoness Scotland, and is encouraging whichever country will give them a listening ear, to challenge Scotland's candidacy.
Another Member State is questioning whether Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson' suggestion in a letter to Commonwealth Heads, that another candidate should be encouraged to come forward to challenge Lady Scotland has taken root in Jamaica.
On April 1, Jamaica announced the candidacy of its Education Minister Kamina Johnson Smith, for the post of Commonwealth Secretary General. According to the release from Jamaica House, she has held several crucial leadership posts both regionally and internationally, having served as President of the OACPS Council of Ministers, Chair of CARIFORUM and the CARICOM Council on Trade and Economic Development.
The Release noted that, "She has represented Jamaica at numerous bilateral, regional, hemispheric and international encounters, and was the first Jamaican Foreign Minister to be invited to G7 and G20 ministerial meetings. Jamaica is currently the African, Caribbean and Pacific Coordinator within the World Trade Organisation, a role headed by Minister Johnson Smith.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness said, “The Government of Jamaica has every confidence in Minister Johnson Smith’s abilities to build bridges and consensus, bringing governments and peoples to a common understanding. Her qualifications for the post of Secretary-General, including her high moral character, diplomatic and political acumen, proven competence, and commitment to the work of the Commonwealth make her an excellent candidate.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne, in an attempt to rally support for Scotland against what many CARICOM Member States see as an improper attempt to oust her, had penned a recent letter to fellow Commonwealth heads. He said “Our Commonwealth family has until now held to the tradition of at least two terms for a secretary-general and to the principle of rotation between regions. It now appears the separate regions of Africa, Asia and the Pacific have been, or are being encouraged to present candidates in opposition to the current secretary-general.
This runs counter to the principle of rotation which would see Africa assuming the office of secretary-general in 2024 when the Caribbean’s turn would come to an end followed in turn by the Pacific.”
He urges: “If we are to live up the values of the Commonwealth which we cherish and hold dear we should eschew any attempt to pit our countries and our regions one against the other. Only in that way can the Commonwealth continue to be a beacon in this world which is beset by turmoil.
“Events we have faced in recent years show we cannot afford for this Commonwealth to be divided. We must be united against the common threat of Covid, climate change and economic fallout which will scar all our countries for the foreseeable future....now is a time for consistency, stability and a proven track record of delivery,” Browne said.