The People’s Progressive Party Civic’s (PPPC) Prime Ministerial candidate, Ambassador Elisabeth Harper appeared Saturday in what seemed to be a canned interview that was calculated to cultivate support from women around issues of domestic violence, the elderly and a unified family.
While the PPP’s General Secretary, Clement Rohee has sought to shrug off questions about his party sheltering her from the privately and publicly owned interview, her appearance on the State-owned television, National Communications Network, in an interview with Olive Gopaul appeared to reinforce the view that the career diplomat was being shielded from tough questions.
In the 20-minute interview that barely sketched her from her early adult working life and highlight some of her domestic personal challenges and success, Harper at times appeared hesitant and not too expansive in many of her responses.
Seemingly aimed at evoking public sympathy for a woman who suffered alleged abuse at the hands of her first husband on the one hand and family unity today, Gopaul did not serve up any tough or probing questions to the woman who could possibly turn out to be Guyana’s next Prime Minister after the May 11, 2015.
Harper, who joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a Registry Clerk in 1976 and move up the ranks to Director General in 2001, related that her first husband did not support her academic pursuits. “The marriage didn’t last because he didn’t respect my decision, support my decision to further my career at the university, my education and he became abusive also and I just thought that that wasn’t right for me to be subject myself to that or my children to that treatment or that environment; it was very unhealthy,” she said.
She credited her four sisters and her mother, who later went on to suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease, for supporting her through that troubled period of her life. “I know that Mom had it hard because she was a single parent also. My Dad died when I was twelve years old but she was strong and I believe that that is a strength that I took from her and she helped through it,” said Harper.
Harper spoke highly of her husband, Mark Harper, saying he is always very supportive at home and pays a keen interest in her work. “It’s helpful because you don’t have to worry on the domestic side. He takes care of everything and also he is very attentive to my work and it helps and we are a blended family actually because he also has a daughter and she lives with us and I consider her as my daughter. I have three daughters, technically,” she said.
She said her personal experiences aided her deciding to take up the offer as the PPPC’s Prime Ministerial Candidate and so, if elected to office, she would concentrate on among other issues, domestic violence. “Me being able to tell my story from where I came from, what I have become, how I did it… I feel that I could encourage women, I could also encourage interest groups in society to help to rid us of this and also young women, top, who are looking for role models- encouraging them to empower themselves,” she said.
Touching on national issues, the Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs up to highlighted the importance of foreign relations- as they relate to territorial sovereignty and the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals.
Harper said after she was approached to become the PM candidate, she prayed about it and consulted her family before she made the decision. She stressed the need for job creation and, further access to education, and reducing crime. “I believe we should have a zero tolerance where crime is concerned and in order for that to happen, we have to have certain things as a foundation. We have to ensure that families are strong, children feel secured, they are educated, they are trained and so you also look at the skilled sectors,” she said.
The former public servant highlighted quality education as a major plank in improving the quality of life and increasing local investment. Harper stressed that she is ready to be Guyana’s next prime minister. “I am ready for the challenge because whatever I put my mind to I am ready to succeed and this is not for Elisabeth Harper; this is for all the women out there who see me as a female prime ministerial candidate and this is for Guyana, the country that I have lived in and served for just about four decades,” she said.
Harper, who said “I am ready for the campaign trail,” also identified the need to focus on care and respect for the elderly. “I am excited to have the opportunity, if it presents itself, to serve in another capacity, serve in a higher capacity and I see it as public service to develop Guyana even further and to work with everybody to develop this land that we are blessed to live in,” he said.