Battle to provide crutches to a crippled Commonwealth hots-up as Jamaica announces its candidate for the post of Secretary-General
Jamaica’s Kamina Johnson-Smith – A badly needed ‘bridge builder’ with a high moral character
By Trevor Grundy
Jamaica, which has stated its determination to abandon its constitutional link with the British monarchy, has named its Foreign Minister, Kamina Johnson Smith, as candidate for the key post as Commonwealth Secretary-General.
A decision on the appointment is to be made during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) scheduled to take place between June 20-25, 2022 in Kigali, Rwanda.
Describing the Minister of Foreign Affairs as ‘eminently qualified for the post’ a Jamaican government spokesperson said that she had held several crucial leadership positions both regionally and internationally.’
The statement said, ‘Her qualifications for the post of Secretary-General, including her high moral character, diplomatic and political acumen, proven competence and commitment to the world of the Commonwealth, make her an excellent candidate. She will bring a wealth of experience to the position and is committed to international political service with special regard for sustainable development, gender and the interest of small states, which will contribute significantly to the work of the Organisation towards 2.5 billion citizens of the Commonwealth.’
Minister Johnson is an attorney-general who worked previously in private practice.
She holds a bachelor of arts in French, a bachelor of laws and a master of laws in Commercial Law. She speaks French as a foreign language and is presently serving in her second term as Leader of Government Business in the Jamaican Senate.
Until the Jamaican announcement about Minister Johnson’s nomination, it seemed certain that Baroness Patricia Scotland would be re-elected for a second term, despite critical reports that she used her position to favour friends – charges of favouritism at its best, corruption at its worst.
Because of the Covid pandemic the 2020 CHOGM was abandoned along with media criticism of the baroness.
But Commonwealth observers who live outside the London bubble are like elephants and have long memories.
On November 4, 2016, an article in The Times said that the 67-year old Dominican-born lawyer faced criticism over a reported £250,000 bill for re-furbishing her official residence in Mayfair, London, one of the most expensive places to live on earth.
Baroness Patricia Scotland
Will she survive mounting waves of criticism?
The columnist Oliver Kamm (The Times, November 8, 2020) said – ‘Sadly, Lady Scotland gives every indication of treating her role as a sinecure, rather than a public service. She need to get a grip or go.’
She was also strongly criticised following claims that she handed out a job to a friend, Lord Patel of Bradford, that allowed him to pocket around £415,000 in consultancy fees.
Many in the Commonwealth were delighted when Kenya announced a candidate to challenge Baroness Scotland.
But Energy Cabinet Secretary, Monica Juma, pulled out of the race without awell- publicised reason for doing so.
Kenya’s Energy Cabinet Secretary, Monica Juma . . .
. . . surprise withdrawal from Club’s top job
A report in the Sydney Morning Herald (Australia) quoted a Kenyan government spokesperson saying that Dr Juma’s withdrawal came about because of a lack of adequate backing from other Commonwealth countries.
Many saw Dr Juma as a new broom who could sweep away the image of the Commonwealth as a meaningless talk shop dominated by people in the London-based Secretariat.
The Jamaican challenge to Baroness Scotland comes only a few weeks after a visit to the Caribbean by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge which was intended to halt the slide towards republicanism.
But soon after the royals arrived in Jamaica, Prime Minister Andrew Holness made it crystal clear that his country is on the way towards becoming a republic and wants to wave goodbye to a monarch in Britain who is facing widespread criticism for her apparent support for her disgraced son, Andrew.
Over the weekend, The Guardian’s Catherine Bennett raised royal eyebrows when she wrote an article about this.
He article was headlined, ‘If you can’t see the problem with Andrew, ma’am, perhaps it’s time to hang up the crown.’
The Caribbean is one of the last places together with Canada, Australia and new Zealand where Queen Elizabeth11 still remains head of state.
How much longer is the question.
For one by one, the islands and former colonies are going their own way.
Guyana became a republic in 1970, Dominica in 1978 and Barbados last year. A strong republican movement is underway in Australia.
Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister, Gaston Browne
Johnson Smith’s decision to run for top job ‘a monumental error.’
Meantime, those thinking that the Commonwealth enjoys the kind of free and fair and good-humoured elections it encourages the rest of the world to have might soon be in for a shock.
Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne has described the decision of Jamaica’s Kamina Johnson-Smith to run for the post of Commonwealth Secretary-General as ‘a monumental error.’
A report published in The Gleaner (April 2, 2022) quoted the PM saying, ‘Those who seek to divide and rule, are encouraging Jamaica to present a candidate in opposition to the current Secretary General who is also serving on a CARICOM Caribbean Community) rotation.’
Browne said Jamaica was a party to a recent CARICOM consensus endorsing the re-election of Baroness Scotland.
He said, ‘I think Jamaica’s proposed candidature for Commonwealth Secretary General is a monumental error which could serve to divide the Caribbean.’
He said that the consensus should never have been broken without overwhelming cause.
‘The issue of Baroness Scotland’s dominant nationality is a now moot point. The reality is she was born in Dominica with Antiguan and Barbudan leneage. 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.’