Caricom leaders divided on Commonwealth SG

Georgetown – Caricom leaders will vote for “a candidate of their choice” when Commonwealth leaders meet in Rwanda next month to choose the next Commonwealth Secretary General.

Caricom chairman, John Briceno made this announcement on Tuesday after Jamaica apparently scuttled any attempt by the 15-member grouping to have a consensus candidate for the position, defending its decision to nominate Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade minister, Kamina Johnson-Smith for the post.

“The conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community maintains that it is still the turn of the Caribbean to provide a candidate for the position,” Briceno said in a statement.

“In that regard, two candidates from the Caribbean Community have been nominated for the post… (and) member states of the Community will vote for the candidate of their choice.”

Caricom leaders issued a statement in April indicating they were still divided in their support for the two candidates, including the incumbent, Baroness Patricia Scotland and agreed instead to appoint a sub-committee to delve further into the matter.

Caricom did not announce a date as to when the regional sub-committee of leaders were going to meet with the two Caribbean candidates for the post

Scotland was elected to the post at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) seven years ago in Malta and her re-election is scheduled to take place during the Commonwealth Summit from June 20 to 25 in Kigali.

The Dominica-born Scotland is the second Secretary General from the Caribbean and the first woman to hold the post.

Last month, Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said he remains “very confident” that Scotland will be re-elected “and at the end of the day countries have to vote and we know how elections run”.

“We are very confident that she can go through, but we would not want to have any divisive, contentious elections,” he said.

“If you go into this divisive approach, whoever becomes victorious will have a difficulty in properly functioning in that office… We are not at war with Jamaica, we are not at odds with Jamaica.”

But Jamaica said it was necessary to note the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, whicch governs the regional integration movement, “aspires towards co-ordination of foreign policy, including candidatures for positions in external forums, as far as practicable”.

“It does not mandate harmonisation and acknowledges, therefore, the sovereign decisions of member states,” a statement from Kingston said.

“Jamaica’s decision was made not only within the latitude of the Caricom treaty, but more importantly, by virtue of its conviction that the leadership being offered would be in the interest of the Commonwealth.”

Antigua & Barbuda prime minister Gaston Browne regarded Johnson-Smith’s entry into the race as a “monumental error”.

“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,” Browne said in a recent interview.


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