Luis Almagro (GP)
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WASHINGTON – The Secretary General of the Organisation of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, says he stands by his “statements and actions’ as he sought to defended himself against criticism from the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping that they were being made “outside the bounds of his remit as the head of an international organisation”.
Earlier this week, CARICOM chairman and the Prime Minister of St Kitts-Nevis, Dr Timothy Harris said that Almargo’s latest “manifestation of his inappropriate behaviour” followed his statement made regarding free and fair elections in Dominica.
“ . . . [I]t is disturbing that without first consulting with the government of Dominica, which is a Member State of the Organisation, he, as Secretary-General, should be associating himself with such an inference.
“The Community once again calls on the Secretary-General to refrain from actions and statements which are beyond the competence of the Office and affect the impartiality of the Organisation which he has the privilege to lead,” Harris said in the statement.
But Almagro, who has also fallen afoul of the regional grouping on his position regarding the unfolding situation in Venezuela, said CARICOM chairman in his statement “wrongly asserts that I acted beyond the competence of the Office of Secretary General of the OAS”.
The OAS Secretary General said that in his tweet published on February 7, 2019, he acknowledges having met with the former Dominica ambassador to the OAS, Crispin Gregoire, “who expressed his concern that the upcoming elections in Dominica are not free and fair”.
“He also requested OAS official assistance to help ensure a level playing field in the country.”
Almagro said that “as is evident from the transcript, Ambassador Gregoire expressed his concern to me and I formulated the communication”.
“I am surprised that I was denounced for being transparent and for not censoring ideas, particularly in an organisation that is obliged to act in accordance with democratic principles such as freedom of speech, openness and tolerance for the diversity of political views.”
He said he was reiterating a position adopted when he took up office in 2015 that “I would be both government and opposition”.
“As Secretary General of the OAS, I have an open-door policy, I meet with people with different views and I welcome pluralism of ideas and beliefs,” he said, adding that “it is worth noting that, according to a study published by the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and The University of Sydney, Dominica is the country with the lowest rate of implementation (below 10 per cent) of the recommendations of OAS Electoral Observation Missions.
“Democracy is a way of life and an ongoing process of continuous improvement and the recommendations of the Organization aim to guarantee voters the best possible electoral process. When they are not followed and not implemented, this does not help member states to increase the level of trust from the opposition and the international community in their electoral processes.
“I stand by my statements and actions, which are completely consistent with the competencies of the Office of Secretary General and the democratic principles that this Organisation promotes and defends,” Almagro said in his response.
The Dominica government had also written to Almagro demanding an apology.
In its two-page letter to Almagro, Dominica’s Foreign and CARICOM Affairs Minister, Francine Baron, demanded that the OAS Secretary General immediately remove the message on his Twitter account as well as apologise.
“You are the head of the Organisation of American States, an organisation that the Government of Dominica has invited for the last two elections, to monitor our elections in Dominica. As with any system in the world, our electoral system is not perfect but observers have consistently held that our elections are free and fair,” she wrote informing him that general elections are constitutionally due in 2020.
She said that recommendations have been made regarding ways to improve the electoral system “chief of which is through the introduction of voter identification cards and the revision of the voters list”.
Baron said that the Electoral Commission has approved a system for the introduction of the cards and the legislation to facilitate the process has been drafted.
“It is clear that in posting this tweet, you Mr Secretary General are endorsing and giving credence to unsubstantiated complaints made to you, without giving the Member State, whom you represent even the simple courtesy of an opportunity to respond. Is that what we as Member States can expect from you as your new modus operandi.
“We demand that you immediately take down that tweet, which is inaccurate, false and misleading and tender an appropriate apology and clarification that this does not represent a conclusion by the Organisation of American States,” Baron wrote.
Almagro did not make any reference to Dominca’s letter in his statement. (CMC)