By John Beale, former Ambassador of Barbados to the US and the OAS
On March 2, elections were held in Guyana. My former colleague, the highly respected diplomat, Sir Ronald Sanders, Ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda to the US and the OAS stated in his article on June 4th, “Democracy on trial”, that “adherence to democracy, including free and fair elections, has been on trial in the CARICOM region over the past three months in Guyana and Suriname”. He concludes that while Suriname has done very well, Guyana’s credibility is in serious jeopardy, which by extension puts CARICOM on centre stage.
In a press release regarding the elections in Guyana on June 4th, the General Secretariat of the OAS stated that “regrettably the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has refused to provide the OAS Mission with important documents”.
Numerous opportunities have been given to the President of Guyana, David Granger, to come clean and while he gives the impression that he supports free and fair elections his actions do not. Indeed, he is being described in Caribbean political circles as a “Sanctimonious Gangster”.
Based on his actions I am prepared to predict that Granger will not accept the results of the elections (the recount, so far, shows that he will lose), and he will do everything possible, including disregarding the rule of law, to remain in power. His actions could include fomenting civil strife in order to declare a state of emergency and martial law, allowing him to rule by decree with the backing of a cabal around him.
What Granger does is not just a matter for him and the people of Guyana; as a member of CARICOM what happens in Guyana directly impinges on the region as a whole, particularly as Guyana is bound by the CARICOM Treaty and the Charter of Civil Society. Therefore, under no circumstances should CARICOM tolerate violations of democracy, the rule of law and political and civil rights. The latter is a cancer. Once it is not excised in one limb of the CARICOM Group, it will spread to all others.
It cannot be business as usual. CARICOM is already a weak group of countries in the international community. The Group would be further weakened and disrespected if it permits any of its members to go rogue. It already has no economic or military clout. Allowing Granger to disregard the elections results and maintain his regime in power, would deprive CARICOM of moral and diplomatic standing as well.
In the event that Granger does not abide by the official outcome of the elections, CARICOM must act swiftly, not waiting for other countries and institutions, such as the US, UK, Canada, the European Union, the Commonwealth and the OAS to act first, dragging CARICOM in their wake.
If Granger does not relinquish power, should the current recount show that his party has lost, CARICOM should immediately suspend Guyana from membership, pending a full return to democracy, and move the headquarters of CARICOM from Guyana to another CARICOM country.
Not since the 1960s, when former Prime Minister of Barbados, Errol Barrow, described certain Eastern Caribbean leaders as “bandits”, have CARICOM leaders criticized let alone acted against one of their number. It is time for that silence to stop, in the interest of the peoples of the area.