Agreement on a Second Term for the Baroness, Snagged by a Preference for Silence on Audit Findings or Unwitting Political Disagreements Among CARICOM Heads


By Arvel Grant, Political and Current Affairs Analyst

(Read more of Arvel’s analytical pieces on and [email protected])

When  Baroness Scotland  was elected to her first term as Commonwealth Secretary-General, few would have predicted such strident disagreements,  over the usually routine renewal of a second term for an incumbent. Allegations began surfacing: Hiring of illegal immigrant, award of consultancy contract; budget over-runs to refurbish official mansion, and waver of procurement rules. Now it appears that those allegations are subjects of negative audit findings.

One expects that such allegations should resonate within the corridors of the  commonwealth, which aspires to uphold: Democracy, Good Governance, Sustainable Development, Human Rights, and Gender Equity. Furthermore, successive Commonwealth declarations,  seem uncompromising, on the inseparability of the twin values of good governance and sustainable development. On this latter point, the tendencies toward governance reform,   by  Prime Ministers Browne and Holness, could have symmetries that they may   yet recognize.

As a student of public affairs over the past 40 or so years, I know well how skillfully placed whispering campaigns can be used to muddy the career path of public officials. So, any allegations against the Baroness may have been started as highly placed whispering campaigns,  planted by her personal or ideological enemies. Needless to say, if  such whispers attain the status of credible audit findings and criticisms, they become loud shouts in the public interest.

As incumbent Secretary-General, The Baroness (and her supporters)  should not  be impervious to any such    audit findings and recommendations, whether  the auditors are:  Unimpeachable professionals or well-placed conservative “Trojan horses”. Ultimately, the last thing the Baroness should want, is the appearance of an entitlement syndrome.

“Baroness Brazen or not “I have no difficulty counting myself as an admirer of Patricia Scotland. Born of Antiguan and Dominican parentage; having migrated to the United Kingdom as a toddler,  she   was able to navigate the legendary racial and ethnic obstacles in British society. To  have become one of the most influential politicians and decorated members of the British Establishment,  is astonishing, if not miraculous. Now she needs to  manage her legacy to avoid unforced errors.

Which takes me to the unenviable positions in which Prime Ministers Browne and Skerrith (on the one hand) and Holness (on the other) find themselves? To accumulate and preserve trust: at home, across the Caribbean, and around the world, our leaders must be bounded by their verbal commitments as much as they would be bounded by their signatures on the “dotted lines“. So, one understands the strident defense of the Secretary General’s candidacy for a second 5-year term, by some Governments which supported her first term bid.

In the context of   Commonwealth commitment to the twin doctrines of good governance and sustainable development; Andrew Holness has signaled intent to clean up Government and governance in Jamaica. So much so that he could   come across (to some)  as the “holy man” of transparency in Government. Some of his officials (including senior ones)  have been on a steady stream out of the cabinet and parliamentary caucus,   when  their actions are deemed to  compromise the high probity required of a parliamentary or cabinet official.

In such circumstances, it is a tough ask of Andrew Holness to support a second-term  candidate for the position of Commonwealth Secretary-General, Whose first term stewardship appears to be, the subject   of critical audit  findings,  which none of his ministers could survive, if pronounced upon by Jamaica’s Auditor General.

His   commitment  to integrity and probity in government aside, PM Holness might have mitigated much of the vitriol which followed   declaration  of Honorable Johnson-Smith’s  candidacy, if the announcement was  heralded by a carefully  worded, diplomatic note to heads.

At the same time, the spectacle of busy Caribbean Prime Ministers and their staff,  pushing and shoving at each other for  or against the candidacy of Baroness Scotland (and dragging the CARICOM Secretariat behind them), is an ugly one; bereft of any immediate and obvious tangible benefits to the many thousands of poor, if not impoverished, infants and toddlers (in the Caribbean civilization) who will not be migrated to “mother England” to try for a better life and chance their hand at becoming an entrenched part of that venerable British Establishment.

Furthermore, Caribbean Prime Ministers have to pound the streets and beat the airwaves in “begging” their constituents for a chance to lead. They must, therefore, know that political capital available for investment in arguing the case for or against  the Baroness, is burning on a very short fuse. Furthermore,  the image of Right Honourable Prime Ministers, risking the appearance of “water-boys” (fetching for an undisputed member of the British Establishment),  must be cutting the wrong way, especially in the Caribbean, where many seem headed for the once impregnable “royal exit”.

Whether the next Commonwealth Secretary-General is Baroness Patricia  Scotland or Honorable Carmena Johnson-Smith, CARICOM Heads must uphold: Integrity, probity, openness, and transparency; Reinforcing Commonwealth values of good governance and sustainable  development.

Walk good until next time  – Arvel Grant, Political and Current Affairs Analyst.

Authorized for publication without changes or modifications – All rights reserved.

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  1. Isn’t it a amazing how certain people can pit black people against each other, and in the process make us look like crabs in a barrel? There are many selfish people in the world, and the Caribbean have plenty.

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