So Kamina Johnson Smith has failed in her bid to become the secretary general of the Commonwealth. She lost by three votes to the incumbent Baroness Patricia Scotland. A victory is a victory and Scotland’s cannot be denied.
In private and quiet settings with friends or family members she will no doubt admit that it was an unnerving contest; that there was the strong possibility that she could have lost. She put on the best face possible, even suggesting that she is into doing, not chatting. She will be very busy healing the organisation and charting a viable course for its future. I wish her well.
Also, it cannot be denied that Johnson Smith ran a hard and principled contest. She took on the challenge with grace and aplomb. Even her worst detractors would have to admit to the gentle yet determined demeanour that characterised her bid for the post.
Having lost, and contrary to the rantings of the Opposition, she has nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. On behalf of the people of Jamaica she did her best and did her country proud.
And it is for her country that she entered the race. That is why the Government fully supported her candidacy. Her victory would have been significant for her personally and a vindication of the sterling work she has done as Jamaica’s foreign minister. But it is out of patriotic devotion to her country and an earnestness to further promote it on the world stage that she took on the challenge.
It is very disconcerting to see how much the opposition to her candidacy missed this point. Some seem not to have been happy that her campaign was supported from the Jamaican treasury with help from well-wishers. They never bought into the idea that this was as much about Jamaica and its profile in the world as it was about one person setting out on a journey of self-fulfillment.
In this regard, I find the post-commentary of the Leader of the Opposition Mark Golding to be churlish and condescending. To be sure, the Opposition was never really vested in Johnson Smith running. Even though Opposition spokesperson on foreign affairs and foreign trade Lisa Hanna stoutly defended her candidacy, the People’s National Party’s (PNP) response at best can only be described as tepid. Whatever support they managed to show to the public was lacklustre.
So it was not surprising to hear the leader of the party fulminating at a divisional conference against her participation in the contest. He believes that Jamaica’s participation was misguided and an embarrassment to the country. He is entitled to those views and one cannot be sure that they represent the full complement of his party constituents. They certainly, in my view, do not reflect the thinking of Jamaicans, many of whom, no doubt, were proud that “little” Jamaica could be so highly represented on the world stage. Golding was clearly gloating that she lost. At least it vindicated his party’s lukewarm response to her candidacy.
But Golding is a politician who is interested in wielding political power as prime minister. Obviously, for him, anything that can further that cause is fair game. Berating a person when she is down after putting out the best efforts to make her country proud is par for the course in Golding’s passion to go to Jamaica House.
One can understand the force of political opportunism in hitting the other side when it is expedient to do so, but this must be deftly handled or you run the risk of overshooting and hitting yourself in the foot. It is amazing that Golding is still able to walk.
We empathise with Johnson Smith in her loss. There are lessons to be learnt from every contest for high office, whether one loses or wins. I have no doubt that she is retracing her steps to find out where she went wrong. Whether she knows it or not, she will have to heal from this defeat. We must give her the time to, but she should rest assured that she has the support of the Jamaican people in this hour.
Meanwhile, for the sake of transparency, the Government must provide a full accounting of how the money for her campaign was garnered and spent. On this I find favour with the PNP’s demand for accountability.
Dr Raulston Nembhard is a priest, social commentator, and author of the books Finding Peace in the Midst of Life’s Storm and Your Self-esteem Guide to a Better Life. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or firstname.lastname@example.org.