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Ever since he and his colleagues of the Carter International Center, became involved in the restoration in 1992 of electoral democracy in Guyana, President Carter has maintained a close contact with that CARICOM state.
Deeply affected, as he admitted, by the tragic events of earlier this month, on July 3, when protesters of an illegal march invaded the Office of the President in Georgetown, he pointed out in a recently published open letter:
“The Carter Center has worked in more than 65 countries around the world, but I hold a special place in my heart for the Guyanese people. For this reason I am deeply troubled by recent events, especially the fatal incidents of July 3.”
In his view, “Guyana is at a cross-roads. The decisions facing the leaders of the major parties (People’s Progressive Party and People’s National Congress) are between a path of self-destruction or a positive future for all the people of Guyana.”
The main thrust of Carter’s appeal was for the resumption of the high-level dialogue between President Bharrat Jagdeo and Opposition Leader Desmond Hoyte, both of whom he praised for their respective achievements and of what they could do together amid the daunting challenges confronting Guyana.
His concerns were also extended to the role that civil society leaders could play in avoiding the path to self-destruction. But he emphasised the need to adopt actions that reflect a non-partisan agenda and to recognise their own responsibility to defend and promote a culture of peace and security in the country.
CARICOM, which had intervened in the post-election crisis situation of 1997, has made known its own concern over the threats to democratic values as highlighted by the July 3 invasion of the Office of the President on the same day of the official opening of the 23rd Heads of Government Conference in Georgetown.
In a Statement on the Situation in Guyana, the CARICOM leaders reiterated their condemnation of “any attempt to use extra-constitutional and illegal means aimed at removing democratically elected governments from office”. They warned such actions were contrary to several international resolutions, including the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which have been agreed upon by all hemispheric states.
The hope is that, for all the pressures they face, both within their respective parties and from forces and elements abroad in the society, President Jagdeo and Mr. Hoyte will show that political will to steer Guyana away from the brink of national disaster towards the path of “peace and reconciliation” that President Carter and the leaders of CARICOM very much desire for the home state of the Caribbean Community's Secretariat.
(Reprinted from the Barbados Daily Nation of Tuesday, July 30, 2002)