CARICOM/Haiti Talks Achieved Intended Purpose -States PM


Prime Minister P.J. Patterson has described the CARICOM/Haiti talks held on the weekend as successful, adding that the meeting had achieved the outcome for which it was intended. Speaking at a press conference held at Jamaica House on Saturday (Jan. 31), Mr. Patterson said CARICOM had proposed an initiative supported by the Organisation of American States (OAS), European Union (EU) and the Governments of Canada and the United States, with the firm aim of resolving the political impasse in Haiti. This he said was to avert an escalation of violence as well as prevent further loss of lives and irreparable damage to that country’s economy.
The Prime Minister said it was essential that there be confidence building measures which would facilitate the initiation of dialogue between President Aristide and Opposition groups in Haiti. “As a consequence of that, we discussed and finalised today, what we would describe as a prior action plan and we developed a matrix with the steps that can be undertaken immediately or in the short term, in order to build confidence,” Mr. Patterson stated. He said CARICOM Heads envisaged that most of the measures could be implemented within the next four to six weeks.
Mr. Patterson said the matrix outlines measures that are required for Haiti to comply fully with three important hemispheric resolutions in the OAS. These are Resolutions 906, 822 and 1959. Among the elements that have been identified are rules relating to demonstrations, the release of detainees whose discharge has been judicially ordered, as well as the disarmament of armed gangs and the public destruction of all weapons recovered. They also include the establishment of an electoral commission and the setting up of a broad-based Advisory Council in the absence of a duly constituted Senate, composed of neutral and independent person who enjoy public confidence.
CARICOM has also requested that the Haitian Government constitute a body to monitor the implementation of the provisions of the CARICOM Charter of Rights. Mr. Patterson said CARICOM expects to receive from Haiti at the Inter-sessional Meeting of Heads in March, a report on issues in the public domain, concerning the provisions of the CARICOM Charter of Civil Society, especially those pertaining to fundamental human rights and freedoms, political rights, meetings, demonstrations and petitions, as well as the freedom of expression.
Mr. Patterson said the appointment of a new government, beginning with the appointment of a new Prime Minister was also proposed and has been accepted by President Aristide.
“Widespread consultation among all parties with the assistance of the Advisory Council on the process of identification of a neutral independent person as Prime Minister, who enjoys public trust, is we believe an important step at this time. He or she would be supported by the choice of neutral and independent persons in the new government. That would be a clear indication of the President’s willingness to accept a national government,” the Prime Minister said.
He added that CARICOM remains of the view that continued economic support for Haiti by the international community was critical and that political success in breaking the impasse could facilitate the success of economic efforts.
Mr. Patterson said CARICOM would remain engaged on the question of Haiti and would continue to seek the assistance of the international community in order to bring the stalemate to an end and to foster stability. The Prime Minister noted however, that implementation of the action plan was at the heart of the commitments and that President Aristide had given the assurance that he would comply.
To assist in the process and to monitor its implementation, CARICOM has undertaken to expand and strengthen its presence in Haiti. The Government of the Bahamas has agreed to place additional personnel in its mission, while the Government of Trinidad and Tobago has agreed to second one of its foreign officers to Haiti for a short period, until a CARICOM Mission can be put in place.
Mr. Patterson said the meetings were not expected to by themselves overcome all the problems and bring an immediate solution to the difficulties in Haiti, but that CARICOM was taking one step at a time. “We want to take them as expeditiously as possible because time is running out. We feel that the meeting here with President Aristide and his delegation is a decisive step forward and we hope it will create an environment which is conducive to the Opposition doing what is necessary to ensure political stability and the rule of law and that the provisions of the constitution of Haiti are duly respected,” Mr. Patterson concluded.
A further meeting has been proposed with the Haitian Opposition and a group led by the Foreign Minister of the Bahamas will travel to Haiti this week for preliminary discussions.
Attending the weekend talks led by Prime Minister Patterson were the Prime Minister of the Bahamas, Hon. Perry Christie, Prime Minister of St. Lucia, Hon. Kenny Anthony, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Hon. Patrick Manning and President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti. Representatives of Observer Groups including the OAS, EU and the Governments of Canada and the United States were also present.

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