June 25, 2022 | By Hopeton O’Connor-Dennie |
It would be remiss of me not to put on the record my perspective on the outcome of the race between Kamina Johnson-Smith and Baroness Patricia Scotland for the position of Secretary General of the Commonwealth, a 54 nation international body of different races, languages and ethnic backgrounds.
Kamina Johnson-Smith was seen as a credible and qualified candidate
The Baroness had said rather feistily that she would not engage in empty chatter. She also stated emphatically that there was no vacancy for Secretary General as she was in her second term. We are compelled to take both statements as empty talk even as she has crossed the line and we accept the results of the election process as being free and fair and free from fear. Even if we have our doubts as to the true outcome of the race to not accept the results as announced would not put us in good light. We would ether be seen as poor losers or just people who do not trust the constituted authorities to come clean. We do not want to appear to be a Donald Trump. Jamaica as a country has a rich tradition of adhering to the democratic traditions or values, and have always changed our governments by the ballot box. We should not deviate at this stage. Certainly not in our jubilee year of Independence. On August 6, 2022 Jamaica will celebrate 60 years of independence from Colonial rule.
The Baroness was wrong. She was not in her second term. She was holding on due to the pandemic and there was no meeting of the Commonwealth as a body. Also secondly, she was wrong, as there was in fact a vacancy. She was not in her second term as she stated. Such filling of any vacancy is decided by voting as occured today, June 24, 2022. We could say the Baroness was clearly disingenuous in her utterances.
There have been those who have been most critical of Jamaica’s foreign policy direction. From our failure to go along with the West Indies Federation Plan on or about 1961, to our close relationship with the United States … there have been disquiet in many circles. We had a non aligned foreign policy before.
Many of our Caribbean brothers, and sisters have not forgiven us for not embracing the West Indies Federation Plan. You will recall it was the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) that after the referendum called by Norman Manley to decide on whether to stay in the Federation or not. The JLP urged voters locally to say no. The rest is history. Jamaica became independent on 6th August 1962 and Sir. Alexander Bustamante became Jamaica’s first PM. Ironically it was widely felt that Norman Manley, then Premier did not have to hold the referendum. But the gentleman he was he opted to do so. Was he neive?
Then to possibly cement another likely area of regional unity the idea of the Caribbean Court Of Justice has been embarked on. Jamaica contributes much scarce resources to maintain this Final Appeal Course. Despite our support of this court Jamaica has not agreed to switch from the UK based Privy Council which continues to be Jamaica’s final Appellate Court. So here is a further opportunity to unite the region and Jamaica and others are not yet on board. This and other reasons stated above have not necessarily endeared us to our Caribbean brothers and sisters. Unity and other means of working together as a region continues to elude us as a region. Jamaica needs to lead for more reasons than not. Jamaica is the largest and most populous of the former British colonies.
Apart from the West Indies cricket team most other regional initiatives have failed. The University of the West Indies and University College Hospital are known exceptions which have stood the test of time. The list is by no means exhaustive. Caribbean Regional Testing facilities located in Trinidad and Tobago and the Bustamante Children Hospital and the Norman Manley Law School are also strong regional Organizations. It should be noted that Sir Wooding Law School and other teaching facilities located in other Caribbean territories do serve the Caribbean region well.
Jamaica under an oil arrangement with Venezuela got oil and got time to pay back same. We had a great relationship with oil rich Venezuela. It meant a lot to us economically. They even bought 50 percent stake in our oil refinery. Unfortunately when they ran into internal Political leadership issues and the USA fell out with them we sided with the USA. By taking sides with the US against a long trusted friend Venezuela, Jamaica further alienated herself.
Betrayal of Trust
The Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) and many of our Caribbean brothers and sisters were not happy and felt our foreign policy direction was ill advised. We did not win many friends for aligning with the US against Venezuela. So with The West Indies Federation Plan and the Venezuela issue, then Jamaica’s failure to make the CCJ Jamaica’s final appellate Court seem to have given Jamaica further black eyes as they are wont to say. The JLP administration is the so called bad guys in all such initiatives. All wrong moves as seen by many. Did these decisions come to haunt Kamina Johnson-Smith and hurt her chances at success in the polls?
Back To the SG Race
Things can come back to haunt you. So as in our private lives we have to be careful the decisions we take. Jamaica was seen as having alienated itself from the time of The West Indies Federation then to the Venezuela position taken now the CCJ. Jamaica is not seen in many quarters as trusted and reliable friends. We lost favour and it was only a matter of time before we would feel the heat of these actions. As they say the chickens have come home to roost. We needed crucial votes and could not get them from our Caribbean brothers and sisters. We did need three votes to beat Baronesses Patricia Scotland. We failed to get them. We were accused of dividing the Caribbean by the challenge.
Countries have no obligation to publicly declare their hand as to whom they were supporting or plan to support. Having lost face over The West Indies Federation Plan and most recently the Venezuela position and CCJ … we have been punished by not getting support for our candidate for Secretary General of the Commonwealth. I could be wrong, do bear in mind that this my perspective on how I see the issues.
The issues may be more complicated than stated by me. For example have we been sold out by our African brothers again? We were sold into slavery when many African Chiefs et al, are believed to have collaborated with white Europeans to perpetuate the slave trade. Now we needed their votes and could not get them. Ironically it was the British and Australians who were among the seven or so countries or regions who publicly declared support for Johnson Smith’s candidature.
Only Belize, St Lucia, and Trinidad & Tobago, to name a few from this region who publicly threw their support behind Jamaica’s bid. To say we have fences to mend is a gross understatement (with our Caribbean neighbours) … whether we like it or not.
Will this work ever happen in our lifetime? Don’t hold your breath.