Baroness Patricia Scotland, the first woman elected to head the 53-nation Commonwealth group of nations, is up for reelection later this year, but an embarrassing rift in the 15-nation Caricom grouping could deny her and the region the chance to serve a second five-year term, as has been the case for predecessors from other regions.
Until last weekend, the Caribbean bloc had rallied solidly behind Scotland as its candidate. Heads of government at their mid-year summit in Belize in March, had voted unanimously to support the candidacy of Scotland, but that is until the Jamaican government dropped the diplomatic bombshell by withdrawing support for Scotland and adding Foreign Minister Kamina Johnson Smith to the mix. Jamaica had initially supported Scotland, born in the tiny Eastern Caribbean nation of Dominica but raised in England. Scotland, 66, had held several senior positions in England, including being appointed as the first Black queens counsel, millennium commissioner and was a member of the racial equality commission.
She had also served as well as a parliamentary under secretary of state at the foreign office in the United Kingdom but has run afoul of her own British peers and colleagues including Prime Minister Boris Johnson for allegedly running the London-based secretariat with “irregular financial procedures.” Her own British government had even suspended funding to the organization until the issue was sorted out.
But as campaigning for the top position of former British colonies heats up, Caribbean governments are facing the very real prospect of Scotland being shown the door by its own unforced error as not only Jamaica is prepping to field its own candidate but reports indicate that others in Asia, the Pacific and Africa are shaping up to do likewise. This could spell trouble for Scotland. At the 2015 elections, Guyana-born, Antiguan diplomat Sir Ronald Sanders withdrew after the first round of voting because of weak support, clearing the way for her election as the first woman.
Former Caricom Chair and Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne is upset that Jamaica has allowed itself to be persuaded to get rid of Scotland. He is the first leader to speak out and bash Jamaica as others hint that Jamaica is allowing itself to be used by more powerful nations.
“Those who are hounding Baroness Scotland out of office have now skillfully engineered a plan to divide Caricom and to stain the performance of the region. We must not fall prey to these Machiavellian tactics. Despite the pledges of support, there is some level of naivety for Jamaica to believe that the success of its candidature will be assured,” CMC news agency reported.
“To the contrary, it would only serve as a gateway for a non-Caricom secretary general to succeed. Jamaica should not fall for this mirage, by exposing one of its finest daughters to this Machiavellian trap.”
International media reports have also indicated that Kenyan President Uhuru Kanyatta has put forward the name of his defense minister, Monica Juma, to contest the race. A divided Caricom could make it easy for Scotland to be sent packing.
Leaders like PM Browne say they are upset because nearly every previous secretary general was allowed to serve their two terms. The exception was former Guyana foreign minister Shridath Ramphal who had clocked three consecutive terms from 1975. Elections could be in October when the grouping holds its leaders summit in Africa.
Making a case for his candidate, Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness says that Johnson-Smith is eminently qualified and should be supported. “Her qualifications for the post of secretary-general, including her high moral character, diplomatic and political acumen, proven competence, and commitment to the work of the Commonwealth, make her an excellent candidate. She will bring a wealth of experience to the position, and is committed to international public service, with special regard for sustainable development, gender and the interests of small states.”