By Latonya Linton
KINGSTON, Jamaica, (JIS) – Prime minister, Andrew Holness, says Jamaica has engaged in a process of consultation with heads of CARICOM regarding the possible candidature of minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, for the position of secretary-general of the Commonwealth.
Holness also informed that discussions had also been held to seek a better understanding of their thinking about the leadership of the organisation. He disclosed in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, April 5.
“With very limited exception, the responses of the heads of state and government as well as foreign ministers with whom we have engaged across regions, have been extremely encouraging, with several of them voluntarily committing to seek support for the candidature from their regional colleagues,” said prime minister Holness.
“On the strength of that feedback and, more importantly, my personal knowledge of the minister’s unwavering commitment to public service in the interest of global development, we took a sovereign decision to put forward our candidature that has demonstrated the skill, energy and competence to bring unity, accountability and focus to the leadership of the Secretariat and the wider Commonwealth family,” he added.
The incumbent secretary-general of the Commonwealth is Baroness Patricia Scotland.
A decision on the appointment of a secretary-general is to be made during the Commonwealth heads of government meeting, to take place from June 20 to 25 in Kigali, Rwanda.
Holness informed that he spoke with the chairman of CARICOM, prime minister of Belize, John Briceno, on the developments and that CARICOM heads of government will meet tomorrow to revisit this issue, which has been on the agenda of several meetings since 2020.
“We can unequivocally say that Heads are aware that there has never been a unanimous position of support for the incumbent,” Holness said CARICOM member states have previously raised the question as to whether “we should seek to identify an alternative Caribbean candidate”.
“We believe that Jamaica’s candidature, a Caribbean candidate, is good for the region and the wider Commonwealth. We are providing an alternative in response to persisting issues and the strong positive response to consultations on minister Johnson Smith’s candidacy. Against this background, there is no need to position the decision of Jamaica as controversial or divisive. It is never Jamaica’s intention to seek to divide our CARICOM family,” he said.
Meanwhile, prime minister Holness said there is no correlation between minister Johnson Smith’s candidature and the state visit of Rwanda president Paul Kagame, to Jamaica next week.
He said the government looks forward to hosting the leader of one of the most progressive countries on the African continent.
Notably, president Kagame will be the incoming chairman-in-office of the Commonwealth Conference of heads of state and government for the coming two years.
“Jamaica is mindful of the importance of not compromising his neutrality in that capacity and will, therefore, not include the issue of minister Johnson Smith’s candidature on the agenda of our bilateral discussions. However, his government has been advised of the candidature through the appropriate diplomatic channels,” Holness said.