GEORGETOWN, Guyana, April 6, 2022 - Caribbean Community Heads today decided to send the dispute involving Jamaica’s recent challenge of incumbent Baroness Patricia Scotland of Dominica for Commonwealth Secretary General, to a sub-committee of Heads of Government comprising seven member states for a selection to be made.
The Heads of Government meeting today in caucus by way of video-conference, reaffirmed the obligation of Member States to coordinate foreign policy as outlined in the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.
They noted the upcoming election at the June 2022 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) and reaffirmed the turn of the Caribbean for a second term in accordance with the tradition of the Commonwealth.
They also observed that two Member States of the Community had nominated two eminently qualified candidates for the post of Secretary-General of the Commonwealth.
They agreed that a Sub-Committee of Heads of Government will meet with the two candidates, Baroness Patricia Scotland, QC and Senator Kamina Johnson-Smith with a view to select one.
The sub-committee comprises The Bahamas, Belize, Dominica, Guyana, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Jamaica.
Exactly one month after the 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 announced the candidacy of Senator Kamina Johnson Smith for the post.
This did not go 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.
“I know Kamina very well and I have no doubt she would make a good secretary general but the politics of it is that Antigua and Barbuda cannot support Jamaica’s position,” Browne said.
He recalled that for the last couple of years, certain member states and individuals have been “hounding Baroness Scotland”, exaggerating stories about her, and trying to bring her tenure to and end”
“I think they are using Jamaica as a stumbling horse. It will promote division within CARICOM…I don’t know why they would want to use one CARICOM candidate against the other,” he added. “My advice to Jamaica’s Prime Minister is not to waste such an excellent candidate on this race but to preserve her for the future,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dominica has called on the Commonwealth grouping to re-elect Baroness Scotland, for a second consecutive term saying that despite the challenges of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and climate change, she has “laid a solid foundation to look at solutions for our countries in the future”.
Skerrit, in a letter to the Commonwealth governments, recalled that the Dominica-born Scotland, who was first appointed to the position in 2015, had a mandate “to reform the Commonwealth Secretariat and to advocate and to be a voice for those of our countries without a voice.”
“In her first term she delivered on reform and on change; she delivered on partnerships and innovation for the benefit of our countries; she delivered on good offices and democracy. She successfully braved the challenges of the climate crisis and of the COVID-19 pandemic and has laid a solid foundation to look at solutions for our countries in the future,” Skerrit said in his March 23 letter.
The decision on whether there should be a change in the Secretary-General will be made during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting scheduled to take place from the 20th to the 25th of June 2022 in Kigali, Rwanda.
Kenya, whose defense minister, Monica Juma, was nominated for the post in a move last year which was said to have the backing of the British Foreign Office, withdrew 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. Scotland is the second Secretary-General from the Caribbean and the first woman to hold the post.
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 Boris Johnson Conservative Government is not entirely enamored with Baroness Scotland, and has encouraged other member states to challenge her candidacy.