Kingston – Jamaica has apparently scuttled any attempt by the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping to have a consensus candidate for the position of Commonwealth Secretary General, defending the decision to nominate its Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister, Kamina Johnson Smith for the position.
In a two-page statement, the government of Prime Minister Andrew Holness said that the nomination was put forward “in a context where a change of leadership was clearly desirable by member states across regions.
“In fact, over time two member states – Kenya and Tuvalu – announced candidatures for the post . . . signalling the pursuit of change by two regions – Africa and the Pacific,” the statement, said noting that Kenya had withdrawn its candidate “with an expressed hope that another candidate would come forward”.
CARICOM leaders remain divided in their support for the two candidates, including the incumbent Baroness Patricia Scotland, for the position agreeing instead to appoint a sub-committee to delve further into the matter.
A three paragraph statement issued following their deliberations on April 6 indicated that the CARICOM leaders were still divided on whether to support Scotland who has been nominated by Dominica, or Johnson Smith.
CARICOM is yet to announce a date as to when the regional sub-committee of leaders will meet with the two Caribbean candidates for the post.
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 here.
The Dominica-born Scotland is the second Secretary-General from the Caribbean and the first woman to hold the post.
In its statement, Kingston said “Jamaica’s final decision” to put forward the candidature of Johnson Smith was made within the context of other regions expressing a desire for change “and on the strength of the government’s confidence that she has the full range of competencies to effectively lead the Commonwealth agenda at this time”.
The statement said that Johnson Smith has, in recent weeks, been engaged in high-level discussions across five Commonwealth regions and that in the process of these engagements “several countries have asked about the existence of two CARICOM candidates as well as a new narrative regarding there being “no vacancy in the office”.
But Jamaica said it was necessary to point out that the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that 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. Jamaica’s decision was made not only within the latitude in the CARICOM treaty but, more importantly, by virtue of its conviction that the leadership being offered would be in the interest of the Commonwealth”.
Jamaica said that CARICOM leaders and their foreign ministers “have had several discussions on the bid of the incumbent . . . to remain in office for a second term/.
Kingston said that in a context where the Commonwealth summit initially schedule for June 2020 was postponed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, “a CARICOM country put forward a written request for the immediate reappointment of the incumbent for a second term of office, when her initial contract was at an end”.
Jamaica noted that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the Commonwealth Chairman in Office, consulted all member states on the proposal by the un-named CARICOM country “and reported in writing that a significant and diverse number of states rejected the proposal.
“In further consultation with all member states, Baroness Scotland was ultimately offered an extension of her existing contract, until such time as the next CHOGM could be convened in Kigali, when a decision would be made about the appointment of a Secretary General for the ensuing four year term of office.
“In her capacity as the Dominican candidate she remains eligible for consideration by Heads, as do the candidates from Tuvalu and Jamaica”. (CMC)