Trinidad supports Johnson Smith’s bid for Commonwealth secretary-general

Trinidad and Tobago will be supporting Kamina Johnson Smith for secretary-general of the Commonwealth. 

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley disclosed the twin-island republic’s position at this afternoon’s post-cabinet press briefing. 

“In the wider CARICOM, the situation arrived at is one where we now have two CARICOM candidates and, unfortunately, Trinidad and Tobago only has one vote, so we are required now to support either/or of these two candidates,” he said.

Rowley continued: “It is Trinidad and Tobago’s position that we remain consistent and, therefore, our support for one of the CARICOM candidates will be support for Minister Kamina Johnson Smith, the foreign minister of Jamaica, who is representing one of the CARICOM possibilities going forward.”

His endorsement of Johnson Smith comes as the incumbent, Patricia Scotland, makes the rounds in the eastern Caribbean to attend fora and hold bilateral meetings with some Commonwealth heads and senior officials, the Commonwealth Secretariat had revealed in a release. She arrived in St Kitts yesterday and will also visit Dominica, St Lucia, and Antigua and Barbuda during her trip, which ends on the 31st of this month. 

Rowley made it clear that Trinidad had not supported her initial bid in 2015, noting that although she was born in the Caribbean, she was nurtured in Britain and served all her professional life in that country. Scotland is Dominican-born. 

“It was our turn to be afforded the chairmanship, but when that came about in the Malta meeting, CARICOM supported an individual who, while being Caribbean by birth- having spent two years here- in fact, had lived all her useful life in the United Kingdom; had risen to the level of attorney-general of the United Kingdom and had, in fact, become a Baroness in the British parliament,” he said. 

“It was always the position of Trinidad and Tobago that such as person was not really a representative of CARICOM to represent us when it was our turn to lead,” he maintained.  

Along with Trinidad’s endorsement, Johnson Smith now has the public backing of five members of the Commonwealth, including the support of the United Kingdom and India. 

Johnson Smith’s entry into the race had spurred criticism from some CARICOM states, including current head, Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne, who had called her candidature a “monumental error,” commenting that it risks dividing the regional group that has given overwhelming support to Scotland for a second term.

Scotland’s term, which was extended until the next elections, has been marred by questions about her governance, although she has denied the allegations against her. The UK, Australia and New Zealand had cut their funding of the organisation, which is headed by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth.

Tuvalu also has a candidate in the race.

The vote for the new secretary-general will take place during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting from June 20 to 26 in Kigali, Rwanda.


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