STATEMENT TO PARLIAMENT ON ARISTIDE VISIT BY THE MOST HONOURABLE P.J. PATTERSON


In view of the ongoing developments in our sister state of Haiti, I want to use this opportunity to update Parliament on the present situation, and on Jamaica’s and CARICOM’s role in attempting to bring about a lasting solution to the crisis. We have sought to do so in keeping with our cherished democratic norms and principles.
Background
Parliament is aware that since 2000, Haiti has been steeped in a major political crisis. This began with a dispute over the methodology used to calculate the votes in seven senatorial races of its May legislative elections.
The denial of a recount of the votes served to provoke the wrath of Opposition Groups within Haiti, who later responded by boycotting the November Presidential elections. These Presidential elections brought President Jean Bertrand Aristide to power by an overwhelming vote.
CARICOM Intervention
Jamaica has closely monitored the developments in Haiti for a number of important reasons, including its geographic proximity to Jamaica, the close historical and cultural links between Haiti and Jamaica, as well as the fact that Haiti is the first Black Republic and a sister State of CARICOM.
I should point out that Jamaica played a leading role in Haiti’s efforts to secure membership in CARICOM, a process which was completed in July 2002. This was seen as a major means by which Haiti could be assisted in strengthening its democratic practices and institutions, as well as in lifting the country’s image in the eyes of the international community after many years of isolation.
Membership of CARICOM was also expected to boost Haiti’s economic and social development.
Since 2000, Jamaica and CARICOM have been very actively involved in international efforts aimed at promoting a resolution to the crisis in Haiti. Prior to the start of this year, such efforts were primarily pursued within the framework of the Organisation of American States (OAS) Initiative. However, this failed to produce the desired results.
In the wake of an upsurge of violence preceding and during Haiti’s Bicentennial Anniversary Celebrations, Jamaica felt in duty-bound, in its capacity as Chair of CARICOM, to spearhead a Community initiative. Our aim was to prevent a further deterioration of the situation, and of promoting a framework for agreement and cooperation between the Government and Opposition parties.
During 5-7 January, Jamaica participated in a CARICOM fact-finding Mission to Haiti during which talks were held separately with representatives of the Government of Haiti, leaders of the Opposition Groups and other major stakeholders, including members of the religious, business and international communities.
This was done in order to assess the factors leading to the upsurge of violence during the celebrations, and to make recommendations as to a possible compromise political solution, within the realms of the Haitian constitution and the boundaries of democratic governance.
CARICOM Heads also used the opportunity to hold talks with President Aristide in the margins of the Summit of the Americas Meeting held 12 -13 January in Monterrey about the Situation in Haiti. Also present during this Meeting were the US President, accompanied by his Secretary of State.
In that meeting, President Aristide expressed his support for the CARICOM initiative in Haiti and gave assurances of his Government’s willingness to fully cooperate with CARICOM and the Opposition, to protect the interests of the Haitian People.
Due to the continued refusal of the Haitian Opposition Groups to participate in joint dialogue with the Government, CARICOM Leaders met separately with them in Nassau from 20-21 January. This was an attempt to gain their support for a number of measures designed to produce a meaningful resolution to the political impasse. At CARICOM’s invitation, the United States, Canada and the OAS participated as observers in this Meeting.
At the end of the Meeting, Opposition representatives who claimed that they did not have the mandate to agree to the proposals, continued to maintain their prior position that the resignation of President Aristide would be an essential precondition to any compromise arrangement. On 28 January, a CARICOM delegation led by Prime Minister Perry Christie of the Bahamas, visited Haiti and met with President Aristide to discuss the outcome of the Nassau Meeting.
In my capacity as CARICOM Chairman, I subsequently hosted a meeting of CARICOM Heads with President Aristide in Kingston on 31 January. This was to have been preceded by a meeting on 30 January with Mr. Andre Apaid, Leader of the broad-based civic Group of 184. However, Mr. Apaid did not attend the meeting and so the time was used by CARICOM Heads to hold discussions with our international partners, including the European Union, which had also been invited to participate in the meetings.
CARICOM Action Plan
This meeting produced an agreement by which President Aristide undertook to implement the CARICOM Prior Action Plan, the elements of where were the essentials of the CARICOM proposals put forward at the Nassau meetings. The Plan included certain key measures aimed at improving the security climate, including the release of political prisoners and the strengthening of the police force.
It contained specific timetables and a precise designation of those responsible for implementation.
A CARICOM Team later travelled to Haiti for meetings with Mr. Apaid on 3rd February to report on the outcome of the Kingston meetings and urged the Opposition to agree to the Action Plan and to work alongside the Government in ensuring its success. The Opposition however failed to agree to the Plan, reiterating its call for the immediate resignation of President Aristide.
On 13 February, Jamaica’s Foreign Minister led a CARICOM delegation to Washington to meet with the US Secretary of State, the Secretary General of the OAS and the Canadian Foreign Minister. At the conclusion of the Meeting, joint support was given by the international community for the CARICOM Action Plan as an effective approach to securing a solution to the Haitian crisis.
It is noteworthy that the CARICOM Plan clearly promoted a resolution that was in keeping with the Haitian Constitution. It rejected the removal of the President by any unconstitutional means and spoke to the need for all parties to work together under a power-sharing arrangement to strengthen democracy and the rule of law within the country.
In response to the rising death toll within Haiti, the increasing outflows of migrants from Haiti into Jamaica and the widespread activities of well-armed rebel groups throughout Haiti, Jamaica, through the Foreign Minister, on behalf CARICOM, brought the Situation in Haiti to the attention of the United Nations Security Council on 26 February. He called on the Council to give its support for the urgent dispatch of a multinational force to Haiti, to which CARICOM stated its willingness to contribute troops.
Jamaica and CARICOM, were disappointed, to say the least, that the Security Council did not endorse the action we proposed. It was content to issue a statement deploring the continued acts of violence in Haiti and calling for parties to work towards the restoration of law and order in the country. The Council also stated that it would remain seized of the issue. Since that time, and for days before President Aristide’s departure from Office on 29 February 2004, I, along with other CARICOM representatives, spoke with the former President regularly by telephone. On the evening of Saturday, 28 February, the Foreign Minister spoke with him and neither then, nor on other previous occasions, did President Aristide indicate his intention to resign.
Jamaica and CARICOM were therefore shocked and alarmed to hear on the morning of Sunday, 29 February, that President Aristide had voluntarily resigned and had left Haiti for an undisclosed destination. This information was first conveyed to Minister Knight in a telephone conversation with U.S Secretary of State.
We were further to learn that the UN Security Council had held an emergency meeting on the afternoon of 29 February, and in Resolution 1529 had authorized the immediate deployment of a Multinational Interim Force in Haiti. The Resolution inter alia also called on Member States to contribute personnel, equipment and other financial and logistic resources to the Multinational Interim Force.
In addition, the UN declared its readiness to establish a follow-on United Nations Stabilization Force to assist in the restoration of peace and security.
These grave and sudden developments obliged me to convene Special Emergency Session of CARICOM Heads in Kingston on 2-3 March 2004 to discuss the Situation in Haiti.
The Joint Statement issued at the conclusion of the Meeting denounced the acts of violence in Haiti and called for an immediate return to democratic and constitutional order.
CARICOM further welcomed the appointment of the UN Special Advisor on Haiti, Reginald Dumas, with whom I have held initial discussions.
We have called for an independent international inquiry into the circumstances that led to President Aristide’s sudden departure from Office.
While we have indicated CARICOM’s inability to participate in the UN-authorised Multilateral Interim Force at this time, CARICOM has expressed its willingness to participate in the UN Stabilisation Force, in recognition of our continued obligation to the Haitian people, expected to start its work within the next three months.
The CARICOM Statement also indicated that the issue of relations with the interim Administration of Haiti would be the subject of urgent review at the upcoming Inter-Sessional Meeting of CARICOM Heads to be held in St. Kitts and Nevis, 25-26 March 2004.
Parliament will be aware that following President Aristide’s resignation, Head of the Supreme Court, Boniface Alexandre, was sworn in as Interim President. In accordance with the CARICOM Initiative, OAS Resolution 861 (February 19) and 862 (February 26) and UN Resolution 1529 (February 29), a Tripartite Council was established on March 4, 2004.
The Tripartite Council was charged with the responsibility of selecting by consensus, the seven members of the Council of Wise Sages, and submitting to the interim President, the candidacy of an individual to serve as Prime Minster.
It should be noted that members of the Tripartite Council may not serve on the Council of the Wise Sages and further, that persons elected to the interim government are not eligible for re-election in the post-stabilization period. On Tuesday, 9 March 2004, the Council chose Mr. Gerard la Tortue to replace Yvon Neptune as Prime Minister of Haiti. Request from Haitian Prime Minister for Meeting with CARICOM
Last week, following consultations with my CARICOM Colleagues, I agreed to a request from the Interim Prime Minister of Haiti, Mr. Gerard La Tortue, for an informal Meeting with me in my capacity as CARICOM Chairman to discuss the situation in Haiti, prior to the upcoming Inter-Sessional Meeting.The decision to receive Mr. LaTortue did not indicate any recognition of the interim Government and CARICOM’s decision to review the matter of relations with Haiti remains unaltered.
Visit of former President to Jamaica
In the meantime, former President Aristide indicated a desire to return to the Caribbean from the Central African Republic (CAR) where he had been taken following his departure from Haiti on 29 February. He specifically requested to be allowed to come to Jamaica for a short period primarily to be reunited with his two young daughters who are presently in the United States. Following consultations with my CARICOM Colleagues, I agreed to his request. I made it clear to Mr. Aristide that I did not expect him to use his stay in Jamaica to engage in any political or other activities inimical to the fragile stability and order which were being re-established in Haiti.
It must also be emphasised that at no time, either before or since his arrival in the island, has he indicated any wish to apply for political asylum. I anticipate that he will use his time here in Jamaica to be reunited with his family and to finalize arrangements for the relocation of his family and himself to another country which is prepared to receive him on a long-term basis.
We, and here I speak on behalf of the other CARICOM Heads, are convinced that our decision to receive Mr. Aristide, our former colleague, on humanitarian grounds was a just and right one, and that he will not abuse the terms on which our hospitality was granted to him.
According to recent Press reports, Mr. La Tortue has indicated his intention to freeze relations with Jamaica and CARICOM. Although we have not received any official communication to this effect from the Haitian authorities, any such action can only have negative consequences for the long-term economic and social development of the Haitian People.
ARRIVAL OF HAITIANS IN JAMAICA
I now wish to update the Honourable House on the situation regarding the Haitians who have recently arrived in Jamaica.
The Government has made it clear that it considers its response to the Haitians who have arrived on our shores as a natural and humanitarian act. It is also consistent with our obligations as a State Party to relevant refugee conventions and international law in general.
It will be recalled that Jamaica had responded in a similar manner on previous occasions in receiving refugees from Haiti. We will continue to make provision for them until the situation becomes clearer in their country, and more conducive to their return. At the same time, those who wish to apply for asylum will have their applications considered on the basis of established procedures. It should be noted that to date there have been no applications for asylum.
I wish also to advise the Honourable House that the treatment afforded the Haitians by Jamaica has received the commendation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
That Organization, along with others in the UN system, has expressed their commitment to assist the Government in its efforts, by way of financial contribution and technical advice.
I wish to express the gratitude of the Government for these pledges and for the contributions which have been received from a number of private sector entities across the country. Similarly, I would like to thank the relief agencies, non-governmental organizations and compassionate members of the community who have joined in our humanitarian effort.

JIS Social