Jun 13, 2020 News
By Mikaila Prince
Owen Arthur, the former Prime Minister of Barbados, yesterday came to the defense of the incoming Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, after APNU+AFC Campaign Manager Joseph Harmon, launched an attack on him for sharing his pronouncements on Guyana’s electoral process.
During an exclusive interview yesterday with Kaieteur Radio, Arthur, who also headed the Commonwealth Observer Mission which monitored the March 2, General and Regional Elections, stressed that Dr. Gonsalves was “in perfectly good order” when on Wednesday, he specifically stated that, “…straight and plain, CARICOM is not going to tolerate anybody stealing an election.”
Harmon was quick to respond to Gonsalves utterances, saying that the governing Coalition finds it “strange and alarming” that he would make statements of this nature which closely resembles that of the People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C). Harmon said Dr. Gonsalves had “taken a public position that is prejudicial to the integrity and eventual outcome of the ongoing national recount of the March 2, 2020, General and Regional Elections.”
The campaign manager said, in fact, “While the recount is still ongoing, it is inimical to the interest of all Guyanese. It is also clear that Dr. Gonsalves fails to understand a CARICOM process which was initiated following a prime ministerial delegation to Guyana of which he was a part.”
But Arthur advocated for the context in which Gonsalves spoke in, as he was keen to highlight the instruments of governance by which the CARICOM member states are bound.
“People do not seem to understand that there are instruments of governance on which our relationship with CARICOM on sovereign countries are based,” the former PM said. “We operate with each other within the context of the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas within the Single Market Economy. There are other instruments that bind us. In 1997, 1998, Caribbean leaders of whom I was then one, agreed that there should be a thing called the Charter for Civil Society”—an agreement signed at a conference by the Heads of Governments in 1997.
This charter sets out objectives to enhance public confidence in governance, to ensure continuing respect for internationally recognized civil, political economic, social and cultural rights, to create a truly participatory political environment within CARICOM, which will be propitious to genuine consultation on the process of governance, as well as other key goals.
“Under this Charter, Caribbean governments commit that we will have free and fair elections…We were not only conscious that we were building a regional economy but we were also building a regional society and that regional society had to be bound and governed by the best presents of democracy and good governance because we feel that you’d get a dividend from governance. Therefore, we found ourselves to the practice of good governance by signing a Charter for Civil Society,” Arthur emphasized.
Arthur maintains that that is the perspective in which Dr. Gonsalves spoke in, and was keen to point out that a departure from the practice of free and fair elections in an infringement on the Charter of Civil Society.
“For someone to attack Ralph Gonsalves for saying that CARICOM would not stand to see an elections stolen because he was speaking in generic way, is that people don’t understand what binds us and that he was perfectly right to say that. To be castigated this way is quite unfortunate,” he said.
Moreover, Arthur would like for certain protocols to be obtained and upheld when it comes to who has the authority to scold another Caribbean leader—commands that Harmon does not possess, as Arthur labels it.
“Your leader, [President David Granger] sits in the council with other Caribbean leaders and there have sometimes also where they exchange sharp views, sometimes in public. It can’t be that someone at the level of Mr. Harmon thinks that he has the authority to unleash the kind of vitriolic attack on Caribbean leaders. Harmon is not a Caribbean leader, and your leader should tell Mr. Harmon that he is out of order and he is out of place,” the former PM sternly reminded.
Additionally, he pointed out that in a few weeks, a Guyanese leader will sit in council with other leaders of the Caribbean, and it would particularly be uncomfortable for that leader to face “them if somebody in Guyana is sending them threats and lambasting them.”
“It can’t be allowed” Arthur preserved, “and Mr. Harmon has to be told that he is quite out of order and that behaviour is not tolerable.”
Notably, President Granger, while on a radio programme last evening noted that he stands by Harmon’s statement and that he shares the views of his campaign manager.
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