Ja must rebuild trust with Caribbean neighbours, says diplomat
Although acknowledging that Senator Kamina Johnson Smith ran a good race in her bid for secretary general of the Commonwealth, businessman and attorney-at-law Howard Mitchell said the whole affair was a bad idea from the get-go.
“It was a bad deal from the beginning. I am not sure what the objectives were, but I think there was a degree of confusion about how the outcome would benefit Jamaica and what getting the post meant on the global front,” Mitchell told The Sunday Gleaner.
“I think people were confused as to Jamaica’s global position. We seem to have lost sight of the non-aligned principled policies that we pursued previously in our foreign relations.”
On Friday, Johnson Smith narrowly lost in her bid to unseat incumbent Secretary General Baroness Patricia Scotland in a slim margin of 27 to 24.
Jamaica’s former representative to the United Nations, retired Ambassador Dr Curtis Ward, believes British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s open support for Johnson Smith had a negative impact on the outcome.
“Boris Johnson’s support for Jamaica’s candidate may have proven to have a negative effect. His long opposition to Baroness Scotland, which dates back several years, has been interpreted as political and, therefore, not justified. It may also have been interpreted as an attempt to control the Commonwealth through Foreign Minister Johnson Smith,” Ward said.
He is also of the view that the African countries which voted for Scotland did so to protect Africa’s claim to the next term and “clearly did not trust Jamaica to go beyond an initial four years”.
As for Scotland, he said, she will be under greater scrutiny.
“Going forward, Baroness Scotland’s actions will be closely watched, but I doubt it will be any different than it has been over the past six years. She has to act without prejudice or bias against any country she may believe or know voted against her,” he said.
LESSONS FROM KIGALI
Analysts believe Scotland’s promise to continue in the post for two more years before handing over to Africa, which is next in rotation, was also a deciding factor.
Ward said there were lessons from Kigali, chief among them was that trust was sacrosanct in foreign policy and diplomacy.
“In the conduct of foreign policy, bilateral and multilateral relations, you have to demonstrate through words and actions that your words are sacrosanct, and you can be trusted to abide by your commitments. First and foremost, you must have the trust of your Caribbean colleagues – your neighbours – before winning the trust of strangers,” he told The Sunday Gleaner, sharing that Jamaica will have a hard time rebuilding that trust.
“The Jamaican Government has shown very little interest in the past five years for CARICOM unity. Jamaica, for many years prior, was regarded as a regional and international leader, and the country’s foreign policy was based on certain core principles, which now seem to have been marginalised or abandoned,” he said.
Noting that in the last few years, Jamaica appeared to have adopted a “transactional foreign policy” approach, Ward said the country must also repair its foreign policy image.
Meanwhile, days before the outcome of the Commonwealth secretary general vote, Jamaicans in the United States and Canada diaspora began mulling over a possible successor to Johnson Smith as minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade.
Among the names posited were Ambassador Audrey Marks; Minister Pearnel Charles Jr; State Minister Senator Leslie Campbell; Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett; and Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton.