SAN PEDRO, Belize – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders have pledged their support for the incumbent Commonwealth Secretary General, Patricia Scotland, for a second term as head of the 54-member grouping.
According to the communique issued at the end of their Inter-Sessional Summit on Wednesday night, the regional leaders “expressed their overwhelming support for the re-election of Baroness Patricia Scotland as Secretary-General of The Commonwealth”.
The Dominican-born Scotland was elected to the post at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Malta in 2015 and her re-election is scheduled for June this year, when the Commonwealth leaders meet in Kigali, Rwanda.
Scotland is the second Secretary-General from the Caribbean and the first woman to hold the post.
Late last year, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne warned the 54-member Commonwealth that it risks being divided over the re-election of Scotland.
“Our Commonwealth family has, until now, held to the tradition of at least two terms for a secretary general and to the principle of rotation between regions,” Prime Minister Browne wrote in a September 14, 2021 letter addressed to all Commonwealth heads of state and governments.
The Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister, who was also then serving as CARICOM secretary general, said it now appears that the separate regions of Africa, Asia and the Pacific “have been or are being encouraged to present candidates in opposition to the current secretary general.
“This runs counter to the principle of rotation which would see Africa assuming the office of secretary general in 2024 when the Caribbean term would normally come to an end, followed in turn by the Pacific,” said Browne in the letter, a copy of which has been obtained by the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).
In his letter, Prime Minister Browne reiterated the 15-member CARICOM grouping’s support for Scotland to be given another term in office.
Kenya’s President Uhuru Keneyatta is reported to have written regional leaders seeking their support for a new candidate being proposed by Kenya. Kenyatta had nominated his Cabinet Secretary for Defense Monica Juma, for the post.
Media reports in Britain said that UK Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, Liz Truss, had met with Kenya’s Foreign Minister last year to discuss Juma’s bid.
Juma is offering herself as a consensus building candidate with Scotland also facing opposition for a second term, with Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is the current “chair-in-office” for the Commonwealth, indicating in 2020 that he hoped the heads of government can instead agree just to extend Scotland’s contract temporarily until they meet in Kenya.
The 54 heads of government had expected to decide Scotland’s future at their biennial summit in Rwanda in June last year, but the meeting was postponed because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Scotland said she is pleased that the summit will now be held in June this year.
“I am delighted that the Commonwealth family can finally be reunited, four years on from our last CHOGM in London.
“Our meetings in Rwanda will give us a real opportunity to reaffirm the values that bind the Commonwealth together and focus on vital issues, including the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, tackling climate change and poverty, boosting trade and promoting sustainable development – all issues that can only be dealt with decisively through multilateral cooperation and mutual support,” she said.