‘Ali is a man of integrity’ – CARICOM Chair
…says had no formal engagement with Norton
Prime Minister of The Bahamas, Philip Davis has praised the Irfaan-Ali led government and has made it clear that he has never gotten the impression that the country is one that is racist or corrupt.
During an interview with the News Room on Saturday, Davis confirmed he met with Guyana’s Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton but emphasised that the engagement was not in his capacity as incumbent Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
And he said that his impression of President Irfaan Ali and his government differs from the concerns raised by Norton.
“In my interactions with Irfaan Ali, I find him to be a man of integrity.
“(He is) someone who we can join forces with on issues that impact particularly those of us in CARICOM (and) whenever he is called upon, he is there for CARICOM,” Prime Minister Davis told the News Room.
According to the Bahamian leader, President Ali’s leadership has been particularly evident on the issue of food security.
As the lead head on food security and nutrition in CARICOM’s quasi-cabinet, President Ali has been pushing efforts to slash CARICOM’s exorbitant food import bill by 25 per cent by 2025.
Doing so involves countries growing more food and trading more within the region. Guyana has developed at least two regional plans on what areas of production Caribbean countries can focus and it has received the full support of all CARICOM leaders.
Because of his aggressiveness in pushing the region’s food security, President Ali has garnered the respect of all CARICOM leaders, most of whom have publicly expressed their admiration for his drive.
But even beyond President Ali’s leadership in the Caribbean, Prime Minister Davis says his impression of the Irfaan Ali-led government differs from Norton’s.
“I never got the impression of corruption, I never got the impression of racism,” he said.
Nevertheless, the Prime Minister said he advised Norton to pen his concerns to the CARICOM Secretariat. If warranted, CARICOM will deliberate over those concerns.
He, however, emphasised that CARICOM rarely involves itself in the internal affairs of its member states unless there is a significant threat to democracy or another grave issue warranting intervention.
Such was the case after the 2020 General and Regional Elections in Guyana, when CARICOM and various Caribbean leaders were forced to intervene.
Then, the APNU+AFC coalition, which Norton was part of and now represents, attempted to blatantly rig the elections and deny the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) a victory.
The elections were held on March 2 but President Ali was only sworn-in on August 5 after numerous attempts to derail the electoral process by the PNC/R which Norton now heads.
And the APNU+AFC has been accused of conspiring with agents from the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to rig the elections.
Then, Head of the OAS observer mission to Guyana and Former Jamaican Prime Minister, Bruce Golding had said he never saw a “more transparent effort to alter the results of an election”.
After a national recount was completed was the elections in 2020, the then incoming Chairman of CARICOM Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said the regional bloc would not tolerate the stealing of an election.
Head of the Elections Observer Mission (EOM) of The Commonwealth to Guyana, and former Prime Minister of Barbados, Owen Arthur had also said that the recount results, which showed a victory for President Ali’s party, were “incontrovertible, almost impossible not to accept”.
CARICOM leaders had also mounted a visit to Guyana as part of efforts to get the APNU+AFC to accept defeat and it was the PNC/R that fought against CARICOM’s involvement in the country’s elections.