CARICOM leaders to meet to discuss Commonwealth Secretary General controversy


Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders are expected to meet later this week to discuss the controversy that has arisen following Jamaica’s decision to announce that its Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister, Kamina Johnson Smith will challenge the incumbent Baroness Patricia Scotland for the post of Commonwealth Secretary General in June.

At the end of their March 1-2 inter-sessional summit held in Belize, 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.

But last Friday, Kingston announced that Johnson Smith would be seeking to replace Scotland, with Jamaica’s Office of the Prime Minster describing her as “eminently qualified for the post” and that she has “held several crucial leadership posts both regionally and internationally.”

Antigua’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne, who has been critical of Jamaica’s decision, describing it as a “monumental error” said he is hoping that “this matter will be resolved amicably.

“I know that there is a push now to have a meeting early this week and hopefully we can have a consensus and we can dissuade Jamaica from proceeding on this particular issue and for us to support Baroness Scotland.

“Baroness Scotland is a “Caribbeaner” and as a member of the family, I think we have a moral obligation to support her, to protect her and stand in solidarity with her, especially considering that there are entities and individuals outside of the region who are trying to emasculate her. We have to protect our own,” Browne said.

He said he had spoken with Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness on the issue, adding that “for Jamaica now to take that decision to break the (CARICOM) consensus and to present Johnson Smith as a candidate, I think it will only serve to divide CARICOM.

“I think it is a very dangerous precedent because what will happen you will have an abridged term and when the rotation comes sometime in the future, I can see another region arguing that we don’t have the capacity to serve….”

He said during his discussions with Prime Minister Holness over the last weekend “I told him I would have literally closed my eyes to support Jamaica.

“I Know Kamina very well, I have no doubt she would have made a very good Commonwealth Secretary General, but the point of it is that Antigua and Barbuda would not support Jamaica’s position.”

Dominica has since called on the 54-member Commonwealth grouping to re-elect Scotland, saying that despite the challenges of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and climate change, she has “laid a solid foundation to look at solutions for our countries in the future”.

A statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kenya on February 15, and made available to the CMC indicated that Kenya had withdrawn Juma for the position and was looking “forward to considering and supporting any suitable candidate that emerges during process and look forward to working towards strengthening our Commonwealth”



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