Kamina Johnson Smith, Jamaica’s nominee for the post of Commonwealth secretary general, has expressed confidence that she will get the votes needed to win the election and has scoffed at claims that the country is being used as a pawn by larger countries.
Johnson Smith needs the nod of at least 28 of the 54 Commonwealth states to be elected to replace the incumbent Baroness Patricia Scotland, who was elected on a Caribbean Community ticket in 2015 and who is seeking a second term.
On Tuesday, Jamaica Observer sources claimed that at least 15 countries have, publicly or privately, indicated their support for Johnson Smith, who is Jamaica’s minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade.
But in an exclusive interview with the Observer at her downtown Kingston office on Wednesday, Johnson Smith offered her trademark smile as she described the claim of 15 member states supporting her as being way off the mark.
“I will say that your numbers are not correct but I am not giving you my numbers…I would say that you are way off,” said Johnson Smith with a chuckle.
“I am confident about the consensus that has been building around my candidacy and I think that is going very well. We are over the line,” added Johnson Smith as she noted that there is exactly one month to go before the result of the election is announced at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda.
“There is growing support for the pillars around which I have built this candidature… Jamaica has been an international peace builder for years in every multilateral fora that exist and we continue so to be… So we are in a good place to run a campaign and we are confident of where we are right now,” added Johnson Smith, who had earlier rejected the narrative that Jamaica is being pushed into the election by larger countries who are upset with Scotland.
“We have not been pushed and there are no carrots and no sticks. This is a fantastic opportunity for Jamaica… The leadership of the Commonwealth Secretariat is an important role in which one can do great things to impact developing countries,” said Johnson Smith as she pointed to her candidature statement which sets out her vision for the grouping of mainly former British colonies.
According to Johnson Smith, it is strange to hear people repeat the claim that Jamaica is being used by larger countries as other candidates, including an early nominee from Kenya and Sir Iakoba Italeli former governor general of Tuvalu, have been put on the table.
“So it is not just one country that is thinking there is a need for change — that there should be a change in leadership at the secretariat — and Jamaica has been part of the assessment.
“Yes, we have been encouraged, and quite frankly we would not have entered the race unless we felt that we had sufficient support, and I have been very encouraged, and in fact I am quite confident in the consensus that is building around my candidacy,” declared Johnson Smith.
She pointed out that Jamaica is receiving support from all of the regions of the Commonwealth and argued that this speaks very loudly to the need for a change.
“It is not a big country issue. It is, in fact, felt quite broadly across small countries that Jamaica will continue to be a strong voice in their favour. A voice that understands the lived experience of a developing country,” added Johnson Smith who has already been endorsed by two of the heavyweights of the Commonwealth — the United Kingdom and India.
She has also received the public backing of Trinidad and Tobago, Singapore, and the Maldives.