Jamaica Prime Minister Andrew Holness, Friday congratulated the Dominica-born Baroness Patricia Scotland on her re-election as Secretary General of the 54-member Commonwealth, saying it “was a good contest and the Baroness prevailed”.
The Dominica-born Scotland had faced a challenge from Jamaica’s Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister Kamina Johnson-Smith who later conceded defeat. Scotland won by a 27-24 margin during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) now underway in Rwanda.
Holness extended his “heartfelt congratulations and commendations” to his cabinet minister, saying she ran “a distinguished and exemplary campaign.
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“Jamaica remains deeply proud of Minister Johnson Smith and we are happy to have put forward such a strong, credible, and competent candidate,” Holness said, adding that her candidature “won her the respect and admiration of many countries within our Commonwealth family and brought prominence to Jamaica and our ability to contest within such a large international institution”.
Dominica had nominated Scotland for the post, and the nomination of Johnson-Smith had divided the 15-member regional integration grouping (CARICOM).
Belize Prime Minister, John Briceno, the former CARICOM chairman said that regional leaders voted for “a candidate of their choice”.
In April, the Caribbean leaders had issued a statement indicating that they were still divided in their support for the two candidates for the position agreeing instead to appoint a sub-committee to delve further into the matter.
But CARICOM never announced a date as to when the regional sub-committee of leaders would meet with the two Caribbean candidates for the post
Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne had regarded Johnson Smith’s entry into the race as a “monumental error”.
“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 had warned.
But Jamaica defended its decision saying it was necessary to point out that the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the regional integration movement “aspires towards co-ordination of foreign policy, including candidatures for positions in external forums, as far as practicable.
“It does not mandate harmonization and acknowledges, therefore, the sovereign decisions of member states. Jamaica’s decision was made not only within the latitude in the CARICOM treaty but more importantly, by virtue of its conviction that the leadership being offered would be in the interest of the Commonwealth,” Kingston added.
Last week, Johnson-Smith has rejected suggestions that she is a proxy candidate for the United Kingdom in her bid to replace Scotland, telling the BBC that she was “offended” by the suggestion, noting that it “bore no relevance to reality”.
“I have denied it before, and I’m a little offended not only personally, but nationally. “If you look at our history, and you look at my practice of the role of minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade of Jamaica over the past six years, the argument doesn’t lend itself to any credibility whatsoever. So it’s actually surprising to me that people repeat it unthinkingly.”
British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is one of seven Commonwealth leaders who had thrown their support behind Johnson-Smith, saying she has the “vast experience and support to unite our unique family of nations and seize the opportunities ahead”.
The United Kingdom is reported to have been campaigning against the incumbent Secretary General, with allegations she was divisive.
In his statement, Holness said that “Jamaica continues to believe in the Commonwealth, its diversity and its potential to deliver for its people”.
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