• Speech

    The Caribbean Community has demonstrated considerable diplomatic capacity in formulating the CARICOM Initiative in respect of the ongoing Haitian political crisis. CARICOM has achieved as well a remarkable sense of unity in its response to the aftermath of former President Aristide’s sudden departure from office on the 29th of February. These have earned marked respect from sections of the International Community and the majority of our Caribbean citizens, local and foreign alike.
    In accordance with the principles by which the Community has been guided, it is essential that our unity of purpose be maintained and that there be total cohesion on all fronts. Accordingly, Jamaica does not propose to become engaged in any internal wrangle or diplomatic row.
    Once Jamaica received the request from former President Aristide to be reunited with his two infant children, before proceeding to his chosen destination for longer-term residence, I accepted that as a region it was our duty to offer him a place of temporary accommodation within the Caribbean. I was assured that his visit would be confined to a family reunion, and not be exploited for political purposes or destabilising the fragile situation in Haiti.
    Consistent with the spirit and tenor of the Emergency Meeting of CARICOM Heads in Kingston on March 2-3, I concluded that the request should be entertained in accordance with the safeguards to which Mr. Aristide had agreed.
    Given Jamaica’s tradition of providing temporary refuge for political leaders and other personalities from Haiti and elsewhere, our present leadership responsibilities in CARICOM, and our renowned capacity for extending hospitality to families wishing a private reunion within our shores, I proceeded to make the necessary arrangements for him to be received here. The current interim Prime Minister of Haiti, Mr. Gerard LaTortue, himself a beneficiary of such temporary shelter in the past, can certainly attest to Jamaica’s fine track record in this regard.
    I immediately instructed the Honourable K.D. Knight, Minister of Foreign Affairs, to notify all CARICOM Governments on the 11th March, 5 days before Mr. Aristide’s eventual arrival. I requested him to also communicate the decision to other Governments “who were originally involved in working with CARICOM to seek a solution to the Haitian crisis”. These were done.
    It is worthy of note, that since his arrival, there has been no breach by Mr. Aristide of the undertakings he had given. He has since reassured me of his determination to honour his commitments in full.
    At the Inter-Sessional Meeting in St. Kitts next week, we will be engaged in a thorough discussion on all aspects pertaining to the situation in Haiti. As the outgoing Chairman of CARICOM, I am prepared to give a full report on my stewardship during this extended period in office, and am content to abide by the judgment of my peers.

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