Owen Arthur, the former Prime Minister of Barbados has said the statement by incoming chairman of CARICOM, Ralph Gonsalves, that the bloc will not stand by and watch an election being stolen is perfectly in order and that he should not be attacked in the way he has been by APNU+AFC Campaign Manager Joe Harmon.
Arthur, speaking with the News Room via telephone Friday, said Harmon “is a mere utensil” and “cannot be allowed to indulge his appetite to be attacking leaders.”
Further, he said President David Granger should let Harmon know his place if they hope to have goodwill with the people of the Caribbean. Harmon had stated that “it is to be expected that CARICOM leaders would refrain from any actions or utterances that could undermine the legitimacy of the process and its credible conclusion”.
But Arthur said Caribbean countries, including Guyana, have signed a Charter for Civil Society which enjoins upon them the responsibility to have free and fair elections and it is in that context that Mr Gonsalves had spoken. Here is Mr Arthur’s statement to the News Room.
“Ralph Gonsalves’ statement that CARICOM will not stand by to watch an election being stolen is perfectly in order and is exactly what is expected.
“Caribbean countries, including Guyana, have signed a Charter for Civil Society which enjoins upon them the responsibility to have free and fair elections.
“It would, therefore, be entirely contrary to the provisions of the Charter for Civil Society for CARICOM countries to stand by if an election is being stolen.
“And therefore Mr Gonsalves was only speaking within the context of the spirit and the letter of the Charter of Civil Society when he made the statement that he made.
“I must also say that Joe Harmon’s and his party’s attacks on people is putting his party and his leader in a position where I believe it would be very difficult for them to be able to engage in fellowship of goodwill with other people in the Caribbean.
“The vitriolic attack on other leaders is really in a way putting Guyana in a condition where it appears to have itself being led by people who are out of order.
“Mr Harmon cannot be allowed to indulge his appetite to be attacking leaders.
“If there is an issue at the level of leaders – between leaders of the Caribbean and Guyana – then one would expect that leaders of the Caribbean would have to be spoken to with respect and that the person who is qualified to speak to other Caribbean leaders will be the leader of Guyana and not Mr Joe Harmon.
“In this matter, Mr Joe Harmon is a mere utensil and he is out of order to be speaking to Caribbean leaders in the way in which he is.
“And if he is speaking with the support of the President of Guyana, who would himself want to sit in Council with other leaders, it would be good for the President of Guyana to tell Mr Harmon that that is not his responsibility.
“I am beginning to wonder now, how is this is being allowed for Joe Harmon at his level to be attacking Caribbean leaders when Guyana still sees itself and its leader in good standing with the Caribbean?
“I don’t think Ralph Gonsalves should feel in any way, first of all, intimidated or having to cower, because that seems to be the intention.
“There is a Charter of Civil Society under which Guyana has signed to bind itself to free and fair elections and Gonsalves is calling for Guyana to respect that Charter of Civil Society that holds us together as a community.
“And all of us who are watching this in the Caribbean and who want to maintain a relationship with Guyana of respect, will bind ourselves to that Charter of Civil Society and expect people in Guyana to do likewise.
“And I’m not going to get involved in the question about the recount…but these attacks on people merely because they express a position suggests that there are those in Guyana who feel you have to go and cower and hide.
“The people of the Caribbean are not going to be intimidated by Joe Harmon or his ilk.
“And it is very wrong what he is being allowed to do because he is not at the level of a leader and your leader should not be allowing Mr Joe Harmon to be attacking other leaders in the Caribbean in this vitriolic way.”