Prime Minister P.J. Patterson in his capacity as Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), received a letter dated 23 February from Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide requesting assistance with the equipping of the Haitian Police Force, in light of the worsening security situation in that country.
In his letter to Mr. Patterson, President Aristide noted that a key provision of the CARICOM Prior Action Plan called for the professionalisation of the police force and noted that because of the lack of resources, the officers were handicapped in their ability to protect the Haitian population as mandated by Article 269 Sub-Section 1 of the Constitution. He stated that once provided with the requisite equipment, the police stood ready to exercise their responsibility.
President Aristide expressed the hope that CARICOM would give some urgency to the request.
Recalling an earlier offer by South African President Thabo Mbeki to assist in whatever way possible to assist the Haitian Police Force, Prime Minister Patterson wrote to President Mbeki on 23 February, informing him of Mr. Aristide’s request and asked for his assistance.
Prime Minister Patterson also replied to President Aristide advising him that the request for assistance had been transmitted to President Mbeki and sought certain assurances from him regarding the intended use of the material assistance.
The Prime Minister wrote, “My approach to President Mbeki was done with the full understanding that the resources will be directed toward the intended assistance of the police force. I am obliged to ascertain your assistance that the material assistance will be received, controlled and be available for the exclusive use of the duly constituted security forces in Haiti for the purpose of the maintenance of law and order.”
President Mbeki responded positively the equipment was sent aboard an aircraft, which left South Africa on 29 February for Haiti. A request had also been made for the aircraft to be allowed to land in Jamaica for refueling purposes and that request was granted. The aircraft landed at the Norman Manley International Airport in Jamaica on 29 February and was immediately sealed by Customs and remained guarded by the Jamaica Defence Force until it left Jamaica on 3 March.
Based on the sudden turn of events in Haiti on 29 February, Prime Minister Patterson wrote to President Mbeki on 1 March 2004 advising him that the consignment would be returned.
The aircraft left Jamaica on 3 March with all the cargo aboard.