Caricom Comments On Guyana Elections

(Caricom, 12.Mar.2020) — Caricom released a press statement by the groups Chairman Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados following a two-day visit to Guyana.

BY A DELEGATION OF CARICOM HEADS OF GOVERNMENT, INCLUDING PRIME MINISTERS ROOSEVELT SKERRIT OF DOMINICA; DR. KEITH MITCHELL OF GRENADA; DR. RALPH GONSALVES OF ST VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES AND DR KEITH ROWLEY OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO

Thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen of the media. Caribbean people. As you can see five Prime Ministers of the Community visited Guyana yesterday and we had a series of meetings with different parties. We met with the President and we met with the executive of APNU/AFC. We met with the leader of the opposition Bharrat Jagdeo as well as the Presidential candidate Irfan Ali and other members of the executive of PPP. We also met with the representatives of the small parties. We met with the election observers, and then again we met with the president and Mr. Jagdeo very late last night, early into the morning, together, in order to be able to chart a process forward.

We the leaders of the Caribbean Community are committed to working with the people of Guyana for a free and fair process and transparent process. And we made it clear, because there is simply too much at stake for the people of Guyana.   Georgetown is the home, the seat of the Caribbean Community. Guyana is a founding member of the Caribbean community and against that background, we are clear that as a community of sovereign Nations we cannot get involved in the in internal processes, but we are family, and family does not stand by and watch others in the family suffer without making themselves available to be able to aid the process.

We have tried to do that. But we are also conscious that we will be as successful as the parties themselves want to be successful and that while we can create the space for them to speak they have to have the will for this to work.

There is no doubt in our minds that there is at stake far more than who will be the president of Guyana.  What is at stake is also the lives and the stability of the people of Guyana. We find ourselves today, as we speak, in a world that is exceedingly uncertain that is being challenged in a way that we never contemplated that the third decade of the 21st century would be challenged in this way. It is therefore even more important for us within the Caribbean Community to ensure that there is stability from the North in the Bahamas, to the south in Guyana and Suriname, from the West in Belize, to the East in Barbados. And it is against that background that we have appealed to both sides. Both sides committed to the fact that they want to be able to abide by the laws of Guyana and the constitution of Guyana. They have also committed that they believe that there ought to be a free and fair transparent process.

Pursuant to that, they met with the representatives of their own Commissioners with GECOM and we can only hope that both sides therefore will be able to put in place a mechanism that will allow for a fair and transparent process because as I said last Saturday every vote must be counted.

The Chief Justice of Guyana ruled yesterday, and her ruling was absolutely clear. That she expects the returning officer to either start a new or complete the process with respect to the SOPs. And we hope and pray that there will be an adherence to, not just the law of the Judgment, but to the spirit of the Judgment, because she was very clear in the last few paragraphs of her judgment as to what she expected in terms of the spirit and the principal position and the transparent process that is critical if this country is to go forward.

We hope therefore that good sense would prevail on all sides. We have asked both sides to be able to speak to their supporters.

Part of the difficulty in a complex situation like this is that everyone, if they feel that they are a victim then the opportunities for disappointment regrettably are very much there.

Against this background, this morning we have also said clearly that any attempt to be able to stall the process or any attempt to be able to obfuscate the process is one that runs against the spirit of the Chief Justice’s judgment. And it is against this background that we pray that even though a statute puts power in the hands of a Returning Officer that that Returning Officer will understand that he holds in his hands the future and stability of Guyana as we go forward, because every vote must be made to count.

We can’t say it any clearer.  And also it must appear to be so in the presence not just of the Observers but more importantly of all of the parties who contested the election because everyone has a right to be able to determine whether the process is fair to them. And also whether they have the right to ask for a recount.

I’m satisfied that the President and the Leader of the Opposition are aware of our  position. I’m satisfied that they too have agreed to act in the best interests of this country. But they must now ensure that all under them too will act in that way. Failing that, we believe that we will have to continue to keep engaged. This is not a single event. This is a process, and we are cognizant that this process didn’t get here overnight and it is not necessarily going to be miraculously achieved and changed overnight. But at this point, the most important thing, even as we fight this COVID-19 virus,  is for the people of Guyana to remain calm, to remain patient,  and to allow us to help both sides and their supporters understand that it is only through a transparent and open process that we can go forward.

I want to say this finally.  This country is on the cusp of  turning the corner economically, but it must also be on the cusp of making every Guyanese a winner and not a loser. Our fear is that if the process is not transparent that we put at risk too much, and I therefore hope that the people of Guyana will work together to ensure that there is calm; there is peace.  One life lost, as I said last week is one life too many. Let us not have any other person’s affected at this point.  

Thank you very much.

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