After not being in the radar of most Guyanese in their quotidian activities, Caricom, which was founded forty-seven years ago, on July 4, 1973, achieved overweening prominence after our March 2nd elections. It was all due, of course, to the attempted heist of the will of the people by the Returning Officer of Reg 4, Clairmont Mingo, who subverted the responsibilities of his office to radically inflate the votes for APNU/AFC and reduce those for the PPPC, to concoct a result that had the former incumbent coalition winning, rather than losing, the elections.
Following widespread condemnation, both internationally and domestically, Caretaker President, David Granger, invited to Guyana a team of Caricom Prime Ministers, led by CARICOM Chairman and Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, and including Dr Keith Rowley of Trinidad & Tobago, Keith Mitchell of Grenada, Dr Ralph Gonsalves of St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Roosevelt Skerrit of Dominica. In the midst of an incipient COVID- 19 pandemic, they rushed into Guyana to broker an agreement between President Granger and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, for a CARICOM team to supervise a recount which had been proposed by Granger.
Caricom has since stood with the Guyanese people to defend their Constitution against attacks by APNU/AFC in their vulgar attempts to steal the elections. Even when the recount was about to begin, Granger permitted one of his party candidates to mount a challenge to it in the Courts, forcing the CariCom team to return to their respective countries. When the matter was sorted out, another team was constituted to return in the midst of full blown COVID-19 restrictions.
As PM Mottley reminded the rest of Caricom PMs in the Twentieth Special Meeting of Caricom Heads virtually, when she passed on the Chairmanship of Caricom to PM Dr Gonsalves, “In Guyana’s case, we sent in two teams. First, an electoral observer team, and then a high-level team that went in after the five Heads of Government visited Guyana, when it was clear that there was not going to be an easy ride for the declaration of a result…It is regrettable that today, 3rd July, there is still no clarity as to the conclusion of that electoral process, but we’ve said what we had to say on that matter, and we await the ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice.”
Mottley made it clear that Caricom would not stand idly by and allow anyone to “steal” an election, as she emphasised the source of Caricom’s authority: “As a region, we have made it very clear the values that we stand for, and those are reflected in the Caricom Charter for Civil Society.”
Her successor, Dr Gonsalves, also made the same commitment as he lauded Mottley’s sterling role in protecting democracy against the depredations of the PNC-led APNU/AFC coalition. “Her helpful initiatives to assist in the preservation of democracy in Guyana within the terms of the Caricom Charter [for] Civil Society will be long remembered, despite unwarranted, vulgar and opportunistic criticisms of her from assorted, jaundiced sources who ought to know better.”
In terms of the Caricom Charter for Civil Society that the Caricom heads alluded to, referring to “Political Rights”, all its members, including Guyana, have committed that, “The States shall ensure the existence of a fair and open democratic system through the holding of free elections at reasonable intervals, by secret ballot, underpinned by an electoral system in which all can have confidence and which will ensure the free expression of the will of the people in the choice of their representatives.”
While there have been doubts raised on the work of Caricom towards fulfilling its very extensive mandate, there can be no doubt that the body has more than risen to the needs of the moment. Even though they went into the gutter to insult the various leaders of Caricom who condemned their obscene “gamesmanship” in the electoral process, the APNU/AFC caretakers were forced to concede that, “The Caribbean Community remains the most legitimate interlocutors in the Guyana situation”.
Happy Caricom Day!