Sat | Aug 13, 2022

Orville Taylor | Taking 27 from 54 leaves a zero

Published:Sunday | June 26, 2022 | 12:07 AM

She didn’t needs any help from the eponymous Scotland Yard to find the three votes, but British Baroness Patricia Scotland, born in Dominica with an Antiguan parent, beat back the challenge of Jamaican candidate Senator Kamina Johnson Smith and has...

She didn’t needs any help from the eponymous Scotland Yard to find the three votes, but British Baroness Patricia Scotland, born in Dominica with an Antiguan parent, beat back the challenge of Jamaican candidate Senator Kamina Johnson Smith and has retained her incumbency as secretary general of the Commonwealth of Nations. True, she had the backing of the head of the Commonwealth, the United Kingdom (UK), but head apart, she still smelled defeat. With a vote of 27 to 24, the delegates didn’t seem to care if UK sees her as their choice. The voices of democracy spoke. Majority rules.

It was a gamble, yet undisclosed money, believed to be enough to give an elephant a hernia was spent … all for naught.

This feels like a throwback to September 1961, when a People’s National Party (PNP) government full of confidence, assumed that the average Jamaican elector was in favour of the West Indian Federation. Brought together in January 1958, the Federation with brilliant visionary and lawyer, Grantley Adams, as its first prime minister, comprised most of the Anglophone Caribbean colonies, with its headquarters in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

In many ways an archetype of the current European Union (EU), the Federation was neither an anomaly nor bad idea. In fact, Canada is the result of the consolidation of the Provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in 1867, Australia the sum of Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, Queensland and New South Wales in 1901.


On another occasion, I will give more biographical information regarding Adams. However, the leadership and perspicacity of Trinidadian Premier Eric Williams made it clear that the head of the Federation did not have to be Jamaican. In fact, his Capitalism and Slavery, the seminal authority on the subject has been the platform we lesser intellects in the contemporary world use to define the historical trajectory between Britain and ourselves and the current arguments regarding reparations.

To the question, “Should Jamaica remain in the Federation of the West Indies?” 54.11 per cent or 256,261, voted “No”, compared to 45.89 per cent or 217,319 voting “Yes”. In his historic address, Williams said, “One from 10 leaves nought (zero)”, and the Federation and the hope of sensible Caribbean unity died a natural death. As it is today, the groundswell is still not there regarding the unification of the West Indies under a singular political or national banner. Moreover, as it is today, the above mentioned white former colonies of Canada and Australia are very comfortable about their British ancestry and traditions, thus, keeping the monarchy as the head of state is no issue.

Our Caribbean leaders are as divided among themselves as they are within their own minds because hypocritically, they want to be Afro-Saxons and Indo-Saxons. Thus, in this insidious competition which clearly was not over a popular or unanimously backed CARICOM candidate, all the seams leaked. The colonials won either way; a black British woman with a colonial title and one from the Caribbean, having the favour of a British head of government, whose policies, actions and speech are very bothersome to people of colour.


To the average Jamaican who feels that he has been contributing to a campaign, which he largely has no understanding of, the question is mostly unanswered as to what would have been the benefit of having Johnson Smith replace the baroness. How does that translate to anything? Would Kamina have pushed harder for reparations? Would she have the guts to face down the British government over mass deportation even for peccadilloes? And the fact that there is a scary proposal to use Rwanda as an ‘entrepot’ for asylum seekers, deeply reminiscent of the halfway stations during the period of our enslavement, must raise all kinds of questions.

It hasn’t escaped onlookers either, that there is a strong belief that given the antipathy that the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has towards his countrywoman, who belongs to the parliamentary opposition party, Kamina is nothing more than his proxy candidate. Moreover, our prime minister’s acceptance of a seat in the UK-Based Queen’s Privy Council last year does nothing to help the discourse of our having a Caribbean Court of Justice and true Independence. Notably, better late than never, former Prime Minister P. J. Patterson has renounced his appointment to the body, two months ago.

Yet, the real question is as my faithful Rastafarian caller on Hotline puts is, “why do we need the Commonwealth of (independent) Nations, headed by the monarchy as it is currently constituted? Given that Rwanda and Mozambique are not former colonies, isn’t a better model simply one such as the EU, where each nation is equal and the head, not secretary general, is elected democratically?

My view is that a big part of why Federation failed is because it was significantly supported and pushed by the colonial masters. Commonwealth yes, but hold the ‘mother country’ to exactly the same status and standards as the smallest.

- Dr Orville Taylor is head of the Department of Sociology at The University of the West Indies, a radio talk-show host, and author of ‘Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets’. Send feedback to and