By Orville Williams
Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United States and the Organisation of American States,, Sir Ronald Sanders, has downplayed the potential for long-lasting tension between Caricom states over the ongoing race for the Commonwealth Secretary-General role.
Incumbent candidate, Patricia Scotland, is seeking a second term at the helm of the Commonwealth Secretariat, but is being challenged by Jamaica’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Kamina Johnson-Smith, who announced her candidature shortly after several Caricom states had reportedly agreed to support Scotland’s bid.
That announcement drew the ire of Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, who called the decision a “monumental error” and maintains that Scotland’s bid should be supported by the regional bloc.
PM Browne is also joined in his advocacy by Scotland’s home nation, Dominica, which nominated the incumbent for the second term and remains confident of her success.
However, Johnson-Smith has been making the rounds since her announcement and has already secured the public endorsement of Commonwealth nations, including home nation Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, India and the United Kingdom.
This has led many to speculate on what the difference of opinions might mean for the future of Caricom, which has been through its fair share of disagreements over the past couple of years.
Commenting on the situation, Sir Ronald said he is “absolutely not” concerned that the Secretary-General race will cause trouble within the regional grouping.
He referred to his own candidacy several years ago against current incumbent Scotland, noting that though some countries disagreed on who they would support, it did not result in permanent harm to the regional body.
“It’s one of those things that happens…people maintain candidatures and people have the right to vote, but it’s not going to cause any long-term rupture in the Caribbean Community, believe me.
“I was in this position myself in 2015, when I had ten of the twelve Caribbean votes backing me and two countries not. The Caribbean was split on that occasion [and] we went forward to the election [where] ten Caribbean countries voted for me and two didn’t.”
Sir Ronald added, “Other countries had been mobilised to vote for Baroness Scotland [and] what I find remarkable about all this is that the same countries that were mobilised to vote for [her]are now mobilising to vote against her, so it’s a curious thing.”
The race for Commonwealth Secretary-General will be decided during the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kigali, Rwanda, which takes place from June 20 to 25 this year.