CARICOM still divided on Commonwealth SG post

Photo: Prime Minister Andrew Holness (second left) introduces Paul Kagame (left), president of Rwanda, to Foreign Minister Kamina Johnson Smith and other government and opposition officials at the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston in April. Kagame is the incoming chairman of the Commonwealth.

GEORGETOWN (CMC): Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders will vote for “a candidate of their choice” when Commonwealth leaders meet in Rwanda next month to choose the next Commonwealth secretary-general.

This was communicated on Tuesday by CARICOM Chairman John Briceno.

In April, Caribbean leaders issued a statement indicating that they were still divided in their support for the two candidates, including the incumbent Baroness Patricia Scotland for the position, agreeing instead to appoint a subcommittee to delve further into the matter.

CARICOM did not announce a date as to when the regional subcommittee of leaders would meet with the two Caribbean candidates for the post

Scotland was elected to the post at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta in 2015, and her re-election is scheduled to take place during the June 20-25 Commonwealth summit in Rwanda.

The Dominica-born Scotland is the second secretary-general from the Caribbean and the first woman to hold the post.

In his statement, Briceno, who is also the prime minister of Belize, said “the conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community maintains that it is still the turn of the Caribbean to provide a candidate for the position.

“In that regard, two candidates from the Caribbean Community have been nominated for the post … (and) member states of the community will vote for the candidate of their choice.”

Last month, Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said he remains “very confident” that Scotland would be re-elected “and, at the end of the day, countries have to vote, and we know how elections run.

“We are very confident that she can go through, but we would not want to have any divisive, contentious elections. If you go into this divisive approach, whoever becomes victorious will have difficulty in properly functioning in that office,” Skerrit said, adding, “we are not at war with Jamaica, we are not at odds with Jamaica”.

But Jamaica said it was necessary to point out that the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the regional integration movement “aspires towards coordination 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.”

Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne had regarded Johnson Smith’s entry into the race as a “monumental error”.

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