Commendable performance by Johnson Smith tainted by unfair criticism
Kamina Johnson Smith (left) in royal dress visits His Royal Majesty Oseadeeyo Kwasi Akuffo III (seated), while Isaac Emmil Osei-Bonsu, Jamaica’s Honorary Consul in Ghana, also holds court.

Let us reason about this secretary general race and the facts.

First of all, let’s define what the Commonwealth is. According to the official Commonwealth website, it is a voluntary association of 56 independent and equal countries. It comprises over two billion people, including both developed and developing nations.

While some question the value of the Commonwealth in modern days, the importance and benefits are evident. Its mandate is to support member countries in achieving overall democracy and peace. The Commonwealth acts as a support system to strengthen governance, build inclusive institutions, and promote justice and human rights in order to help to grow economies, boost trade, empower young people, and address threats, such as climate change, debt, and inequality.

Not only does the Commonwealth provide training and technical assistance to decision-makers for drafting legislation and delivering policies, but it also deploys experts and observers who offer impartial advice and solutions to national problems. In fact, it is noted that being a part of the Commonwealth has benefited Jamaica greatly as we have gained support in climate change financing, youth leadership and empowerment, trade competitiveness, education, and more.

This year, for the first time, Jamaica participated in the international campaign for secretary general of the Commonwealth. Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Kamina Johnson Smith ran for the position. Now that we understand what the Commonwealth is, shouldn’t we be proud of our very own national who applied for this position? Or is it that the naysayers are so against the results of this international competition because she is a minister and a member of the Jamaica Labour Party? If Kamina was a businesswoman with no political affiliations applying for this position, would you, the naysayers, be so critical and spilling vitriol against her?

Let’s talk about the facts. This was the first time Jamaica participated in an international campaign, and although Johnson Smith didn’t win, garnering 25 out of 27 votes shows a valiant attempt, not to mention some members abstained from voting. Does this sound like a “fiasco” to you?

The fact that her opponent Baroness Patricia Scotland did not win by a landslide shows that a good number of countries wanted Johnson Smith to win.

If you listened to the local and international interviews, it was easy to recognise that there was a push for Johnson Smith’s candidature, especially because she created good relationships and brokered many a bilateral trade deals.

The support for her was abundantly clear. Upon arriving in Akropong, Ghana (a member country of the Commonwealth), Johnson Smith was greeted by overwhelming support and admiration. She has even been crowned Akuapem tourism and diaspora queen.

Locally, Senators also expressed support and well wishes.

Johnson Smith’s participation in this race allowed for the creation of new relationships and the improvement of existing ones, increasing the opportunity for trade and economic growth. Moreover, she was able to introduce progressive ideas, advocating for smaller states, like Jamaica, and specifically the capacity development of our young people.

She also pointed out the great challenges of the 2.5 billion citizens of the member states during the novel coronavirus pandemic and stressed the importance of collaboration to expedite the pace of recovery and effective action on climate finance and resilience.

I see time and time again certain Jamaicans criticising and tearing down their fellow Jamaican when something unfortunate happens. It is a culture of ‘badmind’ that we need to do away with. Had Johnson Smith won, there would be a different conversation happening.

The accusatory remarks from some media personnel and others seem backward. Yes, the Commonwealth is historically connected to the UK, but making comments such as, “Why the desperate public cavorting poppy-show on bucky massa’s behalf given Jamaica’s political history since ’62?” is an egregious attempt to insight, instigate, and confuse people. These accusations and assumptions are made every time Jamaica forges a relationship with another country. It is always framed as Jamaica doing someone’s else bidding as opposed to creating mutually beneficial agreements — which is precisely the purpose of the Commonwealth today.

Some journalists said that they felt humiliated, ashamed, etc. Should we all not salute Johnson Smith’s excellent performance and gracefulness throughout the campaign?

This bitter attitude has been displayed on so many occasions, but dare I say, the one that stands outs the most is Asafa Powell. For so many years he was internationally acknowledged as the fastest man in the world. But as soon as he didn’t win a race, many people turned their backs, and it seemed they had forgotten about all the other races he won before — for us.

Furthermore, stating that Johnson Smith’s campaign cost “the Jamaica taxpayers millions of dollars” is simply off the mark. As a matter of fact, Johnson Smith was extremely transparent about how the campaign would be funded. “There are no secrets around the financing of this campaign. We remain fully committed to transparency and accountability. The cost of the campaign will therefore be reported at the campaign’s conclusion,” she stated.

If we insist on questioning motives and agendas, let’s also remember the controversy surrounding Baroness Scotland. Ian Gallagher, Ned Donovan, and Simon Murphy of the Daily Mail on Sunday claimed that she made promises and even offered monetary compensation to gain support for votes.

Of course, her spokesperson refuted this, saying, “The malicious allegations, both implicit and overt, made by The Mail on Sunday are totally false, have no basis in fact, are tainted, and are being made by individuals who never supported Patricia Scotland’s appointment as secretary general.”

But controversy aside, we congratulate Secretary General Scotland on her win.

Ultimately, as Jamaicans, it is my sincere wish that we would support each other. We can’t win all the time; even in defeat, we should stand tall.

Johnson Smith’s marvellous performance as the minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade is a testament to the work she would’ve done had she got the position. However, regardless of the outcome, as we always say: “Wi likkle but wi tallawah.”

I wish Johnson Smith all the best as I for one am proud of her performance. Through her candidacy, Jamaica, for the first time in history, participated in an international campaign and came out with significant support.


Rohan Walsh is president of Young Jamaica.

Rohan Walsh

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