CARICOM member state Trinidad and Tobago has publicly thrown its support behind Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, Jamaica’s minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade, for the post of Secretary General of the Commonwealth.
Johson Smith will next month go up against incumbent Baroness Patricia Scotland when an election for the post is held at the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda.
Addressing a news conference at Piarco International Airport today (May 22), Dr Keith Rowley, prime minister of the twin-island republic, stressed that, at the time of Scotland’s original election to the post during the 2015 heads of goverment meeting in Malta, it was Trinidad’s position that she was not the appropriate candidate for nomination to represent the regional community. He said this was as, though Dominica-born, she had spent only two years living in the Caribbean before moving to the United Kingdom as a child.
“CARICOM claims to have the position. I may tell you now that it was never Trinidad and Tobago’s position that CARICOM did have that position,” Rowley said.
“We had the option, it was our turn to be afforded the chairmanship, but when that came up in the Malta meeting, CARICOM supported an individual who, while being Caribbean by birth, having spent two years here, in fact had lived all her useful life in the United Kingdom, had risen to the level of attorney general in the United Kingdom and had in fact become a baroness in the British parliament.
“It had always been the position of Trinidad and Tobago that such a person was not really a representative of CARICOM to represent us when it was our turn to lead.”
According to the T&T prime minister, his country would be maintaining its stance on the matter now that an election was npw due again after the completion of Scotland’s four-year term and the two postponements of meetings of Commonwealth Heads as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With this in mind, he said Trinidad would be voting for Johnson Smith, making it among the first CARICOM nations outside of Jamaica to definitively state that it was so doing.
Jamaica has, however, indicated previously that it was aware of at least seven CARICOM member states that had privately committed their support to Johnson, leaving CARICOM split on the matter.
Scotland has been nominated by Dominica and has received public expressions of support from Antigua and Barbuda.
Last week, CARICOM Chairman John Briceno, the prime minister of Belize, issued a statement indicating that the regional group had not been able to come to a consensus on which candidate to support, and urging each member state to vote for their choice for secretary general.