Dominican- born Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland is likely to come up against a charismatic Jamaican politician, despite CARICOM’s attempt to have all its member states rally behind her bid for a second term as Secretary General.
Not ready to heed that call, Jamaica has announced the candidature of Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade, for the post of secretary general of the Commonwealth.
A statement Friday from the Office of the Prime Minister in Kingston said that Minister Johnson Smith, Jamaica’s first female minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade, who was first appointed in 2016, is eminently qualified for the post, having held several crucial leadership posts both regionally and internationally.
Dominica and Antigua and Barbuda in particular, are disappointed with Jamaica’s decision.
In a letter to the 54-member grouping of the Commonwealth, which the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) said it had obtained, Prime Minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit, said CARICOM, which Dominica is a member, has remained consistent in its support for Scotland, which was born on the island.
“Most recently at the 33 rd Inter-sessional meeting of the CARICOM Heads of Governments held in March 2022, the CARICOM Heads of Government expressed their overwhelming support for the re-election of the Right Honourable Patricia Scotland as Secretary General of the Commonwealth,” Skerrit wrote, according to the CMC. ““I firmly believe it is in the interest of the Commonwealth to continue on this track record of achievement …..”
He said Scotland was elected in 2015 “to, according to him, 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 wrote in his letter.
But Skerrit’s letter is coming up against an announcement by another CARICOM member, Jamaica, which announced late last week that it was nominating its own candidate for the post.
The announcement was quickly jumped upon by Prime Minister of Antigua Gaston Browne, who said the move could divide the region.
In an interview with the CMC, Browned warned about those he said seek to divide and rule and were encouraging Jamaica to nominate a candidate in opposition of Scotland.
He said Jamaica was part of the CARICOM consensus on endorsing her re-election.
“I think Jamaica’s proposed candidature for Commonwealth Secretary General, is a monumental error, which could only serve to divide the Caribbean,” Browne said as per the CMC.
There has been no reaction from Jamaica, which has hinted in the past that it is considering quitting the Commonwealth.
In a statement endorsing Johnson-Smith, the Office of the Prime Minster in Jamaica said she was “eminently qualified for the post” adding 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 said.
Disliked by influential Commonwealth member states such as Australia and Britain during her term in office, Scotland is the sixth secretary general of the Commonwealth. She was nominated for her first term by Dominica in 2015
The vote for the next secretary general will take place during the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting which will be held in Kigali, Rwanda from June 20th to the 25.