CARICOM | CARICOM Heads Divided over Commonwealth SG Candidate

CARICOM | CARICOM Heads Divided over Commonwealth SG Candidate

MONTEGO BAY,  Jamaica, May 18, 2022 - The Caribbean is now hopelessly divided as to which candidate CARICOM will support for the post of Secretary-General of the Commonwealth as the Regional body seems unable to arrive at a consensus.

CARICOM Chair and Prime Minister of Belize John BricenoCARICOM Chair and Prime Minister of Belize John BricenoA statement yesterday from CARICOM Chairman John Briceno of Belize stated that “Member States of the Community will vote for the candidate of their choice.” 

There has been no indication from CARICOM as to whether the sub-committee set up by CARICOM Heads to arrive at a consensus had met prior to the statement from the CARICOM Chairman. The Sub-committee consists of the Bahamas, Belize, Dominica, Guyana, St Vincent and the  Grenadines, and Jamaica.

The terse statement from the Caribbean Community Secretariat said “The Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community maintains that it is still the turn of the Caribbean to provide a candidate for the position.

“In that regard, two candidates from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have been nominated for the post, the incumbent Baroness Patricia Scotland and Senator the Honourable Kamina Johnson Smith, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica,” the CARICOM statement said.

“An election for the post of Secretary-General of the Commonwealth will take place during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting which takes place 20-25 June 2022, in Kigali, Rwanda.”

At the conclusion of the CARICOM Inter-Sessional Summit in Belize on March 2 this year, Heads of Government issued a communique which “expressed their overwhelming support for the re-election of Baroness Patricia Scotland as Secretary-General of The Commonwealth''.

However, less than a month later, Jamaica, which had expressed support for Scotland at the Belize meeting, seemed to have re-considered an overture by UK Prime minister Boris Johnson, and made a surprise announcement that it would be offering a candidate for the post in the person of its foreign Minister Kamina Johnson-Smith.

Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston BrownePrime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston BrowneAntigua’s prime minister Gaston Browne pulled no punches as he lashed out against Jamaica’s candidate as being unprincipled, and warned that CARICOM risks being divided over the re-election of Scotland.

“I think Jamaica’s proposed candidature for Commonwealth secretary general is a monumental error, which could only serve to divide the Caribbean.” 

Browne pointed out that said the Dominica-born Scotland was being hounded out of office by a group that “have now skilfully engineered a plan to divide Caricom and to stain the performance of the region”.

In a letter to Commonwealth leaders last September when the British prime minister was actively seeking candidates to oppose Scotland, Browne 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.”

The Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister said it now appears that 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.

Kenya’s President Uhuru Keneyatta is reported to have written regional leaders seeking their support for a new candidate being proposed by Kenya. Kenyatta had nominated his Cabinet Secretary for Defence Monica Juma, for the post.

Media reports in Britain said that UK Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, Liz Truss, had met with Kenya’s Foreign Minister last year to discuss Juma’s bid.

“This runs counter to the principle of rotation which would see Africa assuming the office of secretary general in 2024 when the Caribbean term would normally come to an end, followed in turn by the Pacific,” said Browne in the letter.

In his letter, Prime Minister Browne reiterated that the 15-member CARICOM  grouping’s support for Scotland be given another term in office.

Juma has since withdrawn her candidacy in support of the CARICOM candidate, which gave rise to Jamaica’s candidacy.

The Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community maintains that it is still the turn of the Caribbean to provide a candidate for the position.

In that regard, two candidates from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have been nominated for the post, the incumbent Baroness Patricia Scotland and Senator the Honourable Kamina Johnson Smith, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica.

CARICOM  heads recently met to iron out the problem of which candidate to support. However, In a bid to heal the rift, it was agreed that a Caricom sub-committee would interview the two candidates in a bid to reach a consensus. 

In its defense, the government of Jamaica has offered no plausible explanation as to the reason for its sudden candidacy, except to say that "Jamaica’s final decision to put forward the candidature of its Foreign Minister, Senator Johnson Smith was made on the strength of the Government’s confidence that she has the full range of competencies to effectively lead the Commonwealth agenda, at this time."

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson Current "Chair in Office" of the CommonwealthBritish Prime Minister Boris Johnson Current "Chair in Office" of the CommonwealthSpeculations are that as chairman of the Commonwealth, prime minister Boris Johnson is doing everything to ensure that he has a secretary general of the Commonwealth who will fall in line with the thinking of British conservative politics. 

Scotland's candidacy was strongly supported by the former Labour government as she was a former Labour frontbench politician and member of the House of Lords.

According to a Bahamian current affairs website, “the British are after Baroness Scotland”!

"So the Government of Boris Johnson has been busy as bees seeking to remove her from the day that she first obtained the office as Secretary General of the Commonwealth. One rumour and lie after the next in their relentless and unprincipled, money driven British tabloid press. 

“They were unable to get a candidate to stick, after her Kenyan spoiler that agreed to step in could not muster a fight. Now they have found unfortunately a Caricom candidate in Jamaica. This has caused a bitter division in Caricom. 

“There should be an honest broker in the matter and that should be the Chair of the Commonwealth Conference. Next up as Chair is the President of Rwanda Paul Kagame. But the British have just announced that in exchange for 122 million pounds, (we repeat 122 million pounds) Rwanda will take in all the people trying to break Britain’s borders as refugees from Ukraine and be processed in far away Rwanda. My my. No further comment."

In the interim, Jamaica seems to have launched a multimillion dollar world wide campaign, directed by a high priced PR company, in its bid to get Johnson-Smith elected as Commonwealth Secretary General.

Jamaicans in the meantime are asking that in this period of labour unrest, where is the money coming from to pay for Johnson-Smith’s worldwide, whirlwind promotional campaign. 

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