Regional leaders chide Jamaica for its Commonwealth Secretary-General nominee

Prime Minister Gaston Browne and Commonwealth Secretary-General, Baroness Patricia Scotland. (Photo contributed)
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Prime Minister Gaston Browne has been joined by Prime Minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit, and other leaders in the region batting for the re-election of Baroness Patricia Scotland for a second consecutive term as Commonwealth Secretary-General

Browne became the first leader in CARICOM to speak out against the Jamaican government’s move to put forward its Foreign Affairs Minister, Kamina Johnson Smith, for the post of Commonwealth Secretary-General.

Calling the move a “monumental error,” Browne warned that Jamaica’s separate nomination could divide the Caribbean, as CARICOM had already decided to support Baroness Scotland for re-election.

“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 told Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) on Friday.

In the letter obtained by CMC over the weekend, Skerrit wrote to the Commonwealth governments, urging the 54-member Commonwealth grouping to stand in solidarity with Browne and his contention that Baroness Scotland had a mandate “to reform the Commonwealth Secretariat and to advocate and to be a voice for those countries without a voice.”

Skerrit further highlighted that Baroness Scotland was well-suited to reclaim the position despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change.

According to Skerrit, she has “laid a solid foundation to look at solutions for countries in the future.”

He said that in her first term she delivered on reform, and on change, partnerships, and innovation for the benefit of countries.

The endorsement from Skerrit comes at a time when CARICOM appears to be divided on who should hold the post. This became evident last Friday evening when Jamaica announced that its Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister, Kamina Johnson-Smith, had been nominated to contest the position.

In its statement announcing that Johnson-Smith would be seeking to replace Scotland, the Office of the Prime Minister in Jamaica described her as eminently qualified for the post, noting that she has held several crucial leadership posts both regionally and internationally.

However, Browne was critical of Jamaica’s new position as the country agreed with a recent CARICOM consensus, endorsing the re-election of Baroness Scotland.

Dominica-born Baroness Patricia Scotland who was first appointed to the position in 2015, is the second Secretary-General from the Caribbean and the first woman to hold the post.

The election of the Commonwealth Secretary-General is set to take place between June 20-25 at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Rwanda.

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