By Wyvolyn Gager
When one reads of Dr Tres-Ann Kremer’s career strides, it’s easy to be overcome by a feeling of job envy.
As head of Good Offices for Peace and the Lead Political advisor to the Caribbean of the London-based Commonwealth’s Secretariat’s Good Offices Section, Tres-Ann earns a living while travelling to most of the 54 former colonies that make up the Commonwealth.
A glance at Tres-Ann’s resumé reveals how many thousands of miles she has logged and the fact that she has engaged with many powerful political figures.
The weight of the Office of the Secretary General is used to influence member countries to adhere to the values and aspirations that seek to glue this diverse group together, as expressed in the guiding document known as the Commonwealth Charter.
Additionally, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) of eight rotating foreign ministers from the different regions, was established in 1995 to ensure that members live up to the fundamental principles of the Charter.
It is in this milieu that Tres-Ann finds herself filling multiple roles: planning, strategising, monitoring, engaging, preventing or resolving conflict, negotiating and relationship-building.
Picture this: tense political discussions are taking place between well-heeled politicians the majority of whom are men, and one petite lass from St. Thomas Jamaica is in their midst trying to cool temperatures and help the parties reach consensus. This is a familiar scenario for Tres-Ann who has been involved in more high-level negotiations than she can count.
Election monitoring has made a significant contribution to the democratic process within the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Secretariat has been engaged in this activity for 40 years and Tres-Ann has been there for ten of those years.
So it’s an authoritative voice that declares, “No election is ever perfect.” Sadly, Guyana presented one of the most difficult experiences in modern times. The disputed March 2, 2020 presidential election was not resolved until five months later. It was a “testing time,” Tres-Ann admits.
She explained that even though observation formally ends when a statement is issued by the monitoring group, there is usually work behind the scenes to ensure the necessary improvements throughout the electoral cycle.
What was it that prepared this St. Thomas native for such an exciting career? She countered by telling us who accounted for her drive and determination: Grandma Daisy with whom she spent her formal years in Dumfries.
Her grandmother made her understand that it was not ok to be a mere bystander. So when she left Morant Bay High School for The Queens School in Kingston, she knew exactly what she needed to do. “I simply got involved in everything and I stood out, eventually becoming head girl.”
In their St. Thomas village, Grandma Daisy was a vocal community person, the settler of scores, the fixer, who got disputing parties to thrash out their disagreements amicably. She earned their trust and they respected her judgement and wise counsel.
In a way, Tres-Ann is playing a similar role, only on a bigger stage. When she meets with Heads of Government and their political rivals, the goal is to arrive at a settlement with the parties feeling satisfied that they have not been shafted. Like her grandma, being her true authentic self, she is able to deliver difficult messages, build bridges and avert crises. In other words, learning to play the long game while building relationships, understanding different cultures and local politics and being sure to honour commitments made.
Tres-Ann holds a PhD in Criminology where she researched the experiences of the disproportionately high percentage of black, foreign women in prisons in England. Her research has had a significant impact on the sentencing regime relating to foreign nationals in the United Kingdom.
She once considered entering the legal profession, for as a lawyer she imagined how she could help clients iron out their difficulties and achieve the best outcomes. But there was a greater pull towards international relations and diplomatic studies with emphasis on mediation.
She credits the late Alison Anderson McLean, her mentor at the University of the West Indies, who convinced her of the exciting prospects that awaited her in the world of international relations to include navigating complex legal, economic and even emotional challenges. And her dear friend Alison was persuasive and encouraging.
Another person who had a profound influence on her life was late Barbadian Prime Minister Owen Arthur who was leader of the observer mission to the contentious Guyana elections in March 2020. She described him in a tribute as, “resolute and irascible in his defence of democracy.”
Travelling multiple times per year on the job has been a major part of Tres-Ann’s personal and professional growth. To the onlooker that life may seem glamorous, but travelling is also the thing that keeps the Kremer household apart, since husband Felix, also travels frequently to fulfil his diplomatic obligations on behalf of the Netherlands.
It’s quite a juggling act to manage time with their young children, Daisy and Oscar. Tres-Ann admits that it can be challenging on the home front. Thankfully, they have had the benefit of excellent home help and are supportive of each other.
Not anywhere near the age of retirement one still wonders whether Tres-Ann will give back to Jamaica some of the fruits of her exciting career. Time, she suggests, will tell, and soon.
This article is written by Wyvolin Gager of Jamaica-Linc. An organisation dedicated to promoting brand Jamaica globally. Wyvolin Gager was formerly Editor in Chief at the Jamaica Gleaner.