Antigua and Barbuda has described as a “monumental error” the decision by Jamaica to announce the nomination of its Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister, Kamina Johnson Smith, for the post of Commonwealth Secretary General.
Antigua Prime Minister Gaston Browne told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that “Jamaica was party to a recent Caribbean Community (Caricom) consensus endorsing the re-election of Baroness (Patricia) Scotland” for the position, adding “I think Jamaica’s proposed candidature for Commonwealth Secretary General, is a monumental error, which could only serve to divide the Caribbean”.
Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit has not yet commented on the Jamaica position which was announced late on Friday night. Scotland is a Dominican-born national, whom Skerrit had again backed for re-election.
At the end of their Inter-sessional summit held in Belize last month, Caricom leaders issued their communique in which they “expressed their overwhelming support for the re-election of Baroness Patricia Scotland as Secretary-General of The Commonwealth”.
Scotland was elected to the post at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Malta in 2015 and her re-election is scheduled to take place during the June 20-25 Commonwealth summit in Kigali, Rwanda.
Scotland is the second Secretary-General from the Caribbean and the first woman to hold the post.
In its statement announcing that Johnson-Smith would be seeking to replace Scotland, the Office of the Prime Minister in Jamaica described here as “eminently qualified for the post” and that she has “held several crucial leadership posts both regionally and internationally.”
“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,” the statement continued.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness, in supporting his senior minister for the position, said “she will bring a wealth of experience to the position, and is committed to international public service, with special regard for sustainable development, gender and the interests of small states, which will contribute The attorney has served as President of the OACPS Council of Ministers, Chair of CARIFORUM and the Caricom Council on Trade and Economic Development and has represented Jamaica at numerous bilateral, regional, hemispheric and international encounters. She was also 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 Organization, a role headed by Johnson Smith the statement noted.
But Browne, the first Caricom leader to respond to the nomination, said that “as an integration movement, the reliability of our decisions should be preserved to keep our region united and strong.
“Our consensus decisions should never be broken without overwhelming cause; that will not undermine the unity of our integration movement, or violate the treaty provisions. “
He said it now appears that having failed to get the separate regions of Africa, Asia and the Pacific to successfully field a candidate; “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.
“The issue of Baroness Scotland’s dominant nationality is a now moot point. The reality is, she was born in Dominica, with Antiguan & Barbudan lineage. She is a Caribbeaner, she is a member of our Caricom family deserving of the respect, solidarity, and protection against those who seek to vilify and emasculate her.
“I would have argued previously that, the manoeuvrings to replace Baroness Scotland risk diving the commonwealth; we now risk dividing Caricom,” Browne said, adding “Baroness Scotland’s performance as Secretary General is comparable to many of her predecessors; yet, she is being hounded out of office.
“Those who are hounding Baroness Scotland out of office have now skilfully engineered a plan to divide Caricom and to stain the performance of the region.
“We must not fall prey to these Machiavellian tactics. Despite the pledges of support, there is some level of naivety for Jamaica to believe that the success of its candidature will be assured.
“To the contrary, it would only serve as a gateway for a non-Caricom secretary general to succeed,” Browne said, adding “Jamaica should not fall for this mirage, by exposing one of its finest daughters to this Machiavellian trap.
“Replacing Scotland would ultimately shorten Caricom’s second term and divide our region. We should continue to maintain the principle of rotation, which would see Africa assuming the office of secretary general in 2024 when the Caribbean term comes to an end, followed in turn by the Pacific,” Browne added.
Late last year, Prime Minister Browne warned the 54-member Commonwealth that it risks being divided over the re-election of Scotland.
“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,” Prime Minister Browne wrote in a September 14, 2021 letter addressed to all Commonwealth heads of state and governments.
The Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister, who was also then serving as Caricom secretary general, 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.
“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, a copy of which had been obtained by the CMC.
In his letter, Browne reiterated the 15-member Caricom grouping’s support for Scotland to be given another term in office.
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 United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, Liz Truss, had met with Kenya’s Foreign Minister last year to discuss Juma’s bid.
Juma is offering herself as a consensus building candidate with Scotland also facing opposition for a second term, with Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is the current “chair-in-office” for the Commonwealth, indicating in 2020 that he hoped the heads of government can instead agree just to extend Scotland’s contract temporarily until they meet.