by STAFF WRITER
April 6, 2022
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Apr 6, CMC – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders Wednesday remained divided on their support for the two candidates for the position of Commonwealth Secretary General agreeing instead to appoint a sub-committee to delve further into the matter.
A three paragraph statement issued following their deliberations indicated that the CARICOM leaders were still divided on whether to support the incumbent, Baroness Patricia Scotland, who has been nominated by Dominica, or the Jamaica’ nominee, Kamina Johnson-Smith, the island’s foreign affairs and foreign trade minister.
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.
The Dominica-born Scotland is the second Secretary-General from the Caribbean and the first woman to hold the post.
According to the statement, the regional leaders, who met virtually in Caucus “reaffirmed the obligation of member states to coordinate foreign policy as outlined in the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas” which governs the 15-member regional integration grouping.
It said that they noted the upcoming election for the Commonwealth Secretary General “and re-affirmed the turn of the Caribbean for a second term in accordance with the tradition of the Commonwealth.
“They noted that two member states of the Community had nominated two eminently qualified candidates for the post of Secretary-General of the Commonwealth and agreed that a Sub-Committee of Heads of Government comprising of The Bahamas, Belize, Dominica, Guyana, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Jamaica will meet with the two candidates, Baroness Patricia Scotland, QC and Senator Kamina Johnson-Smith,” the statement said without indicating when and where the meeting with the candidates will take place
On Tuesday night, Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness defended the decision of his government to nominate Johnson Smith, saying that towards the latter part of the initial term of the current secretary-general, several countries, including Jamaica, were approached regarding the possibility of nominating a candidate for the post.
“Jamaica took the view at that time that whatever the issues that gave impetus to members seeking alternative candidates, the first order of response would be to resolve, with dialogue, to avoid disruption,” said Holness.
Holness said that it was clear that the impetus to seek an alternative candidate strongly persists, noting that since then, Kenya nominated a candidate before withdrawing, with the tiny territory of Tuvalu, population less than 12,000, formally launching its candidature in London on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Minister without portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister, Robert Morgan, said there is no chance that Jamaica will withdraw its nominee for the position.
“Jamaica is a sovereign democracy. What that means is that Jamaica has a right, a responsibility towards its citizens and itself to push forward an approach that is in the interest of Jamaica. That interest also takes into consideration the regional associations and international associations we’re a part of,” Morgan told the post-Cabinet news conference,” adding “and I don’t think there’s any evidence of a division in CARICOM”.
But Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne, who has described the Jamaica position as a “monumental error” warning “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”.
Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit in a March 23 letter to all Commonwealth leaders, urged the re-election of Scotland writing that she 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 letter, a copy of which has been obtained by the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).