Dominica has called on the 54-member Commonwealth grouping to re-elect its General Secretary, Baroness Patricia Scotland, for a second consecutive term 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”.
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, in a letter to the Commonwealth governments, recalled that the Dominican-born Scotland, who was first appointed to the position in 2015, 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 March 23 letter, a copy of which has been obtained by the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).
Scotland is the second Secretary-General from the Caribbean and the first woman to hold the post.
Last Friday night, Jamaica announced that its Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister, Kamina Johnson Smith, had been nominated to contest the position at the Commonwealth Heads of Government summit to be held in Rwanda, June 20-25, with Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne describing Jamaica’s move as a “monumental error”.
In its statement announcing that Johnson-Smith would be seeking to replace Scotland, the Office of the Prime Minister in Jamaica described here as “eminently qualified for the post” and 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 added.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness, in supporting his senior minister for the position, said “she will bring a wealth of experience to the position, and is committed to international public service, with special regard for sustainable development, gender and the interests of small states, which will contribute.”
But Browne warned that “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 [Caribbean Community] rotation.”
Browne told CMC that “Jamaica was party to a recent Caricom consensus endorsing the re-election of Baroness Scotland” for the position, adding “I think Jamaica’s proposed candidature for Commonwealth Secretary General, is a monumental error, which could only serve to divide the Caribbean”.
Browne said that “as an integration movement, the reliability of our decisions should be preserved to keep our region united and strong.
“Our consensus decisions should never be broken without overwhelming cause; that will not undermine the unity of our integration movement, or violate the treaty provisions. “
He said it now appears that having failed to get the separate regions of Africa, Asia and the Pacific to successfully field a candidate; “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.
“The issue of Baroness Scotland’s dominant nationality is a now moot point. The reality is, she was born in Dominica, with Antiguan & Barbudan lineage. She is a Caribbeaner, she is a member of our Caricom family deserving of the respect, solidarity and protection against those who seek to vilify and emasculate her,” he added.
Earlier, informed Caricom sources told CMC that regional leaders had been aware that Kenya, which had originally nominated its Cabinet Secretary for Defence, Monica Juma, for the post, had withdrawn her nomination.
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 Scotland foe the position.
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”
Kenya said when it had nominated Juma for the position, it was driven by a “strong conviction of the urgent need to revitalise our Commonwealth.
“A change at the head of the Secretariat is necessary if the Commonwealth is to address urgent, emergent and future risks and threats and if it is to assume its rightful place among the community of nations where its voice can shape and drive the pursuit of of sustainable development for all”.
The African country said Juma was an “offer for a consensus candidate that would invigorate and hold our Commonwealth together,” noting that however some member countries “are uncomfortable and /or unwilling to provide their support for our candidate”.
But it acknowledged it had failed to gain “consensus among the Member States, a situation that could precipitate a raucous campaign that could further fracture, rather than cohere, the Commonwealth family”.
International media reports state that Rwanda President, Paul Kagame, will visit Jamaica this week, but gave no details about the trip.
In his letter to the Commonwealth leaders, Skerrit said while he had hoped to discuss the re-election of Baroness Scotland in 2020 with them, the COVID-19 pandemic had occasioned the postponement of the Commonwealth Heads of Government summit.
Skerrit said he was now attaching the Commonwealth Secretary’s report of 2021, entitled “A Commonwealth Working For All,” that “highlights the accomplishments in her first term and the period of her extension during the pandemic as well as the work that will be consolidated and undertaken in her second term.
“The Caribbean Community, of which Dominica is part, has remained consistent in its support for Baroness Scotland. Most recently at the 33rd 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.
“I firmly believe it is in the interest of the Commonwealth to continue on this track record of achievement and therefore, it remains my distinct pleasure to herby present the Right Honourable Patricia Scotland to be confirmed for a second term as Commonwealth Secretary General,” Skerrit wrote in his letter to the Commonwealth leaders.