Aristide began his speech by welcoming those present at the ceremony. Then he said: “Haitians can make Haiti 2003 times more beautiful. Let us repeat with me: [in chorus with the audience] Haitians can make Haiti 2003 times more beautiful.”
Aristide made historical references and praised Haitian heroes Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Toussaint Louverture, and said: “Given Haiti is the first black republic that enjoyed freedom on earth, nothing, nothing, nothing will ever be able to delete this title of champion. Haiti is a champion. Nobody can change that. Congratulations to Haiti and to all Haitians. Wave the flags for Haiti. Big applause for the Haitian people.” [Applause]
He explained that the ending of slavery in Haiti meant pushing away borders and barriers so that mankind could enjoy freedom everywhere. He added: “In fact, as early as 1 January 1804, Haiti, the mother of freedom, showed the way to the independence of the peoples beyond our borders.” He mentioned the years which marked the independence of various Latin American countries and said: “The year 1803 [which marked the creation of the Haitian flag in Arcahaie on 18 May and the final victory of Haitian troops over Napoleon’s army before Haiti’s proclamation of independence on 1 January 1804] marked Haitian history deeply. The year 1803 was the year of 1,000 fights. The year 1803 was the year of great victories.”
After evoking the revolt of the Haitian slaves and recalling victories by the Haitian Indigenous Army over the English and the French, he said: “As you observe, the delivery for Haiti’s independence was a Caesarean section performed without anaesthetic. Fortunately, if the cockerel’s strength lies in his spurs, Haiti’s strength lies in Haitians; Haiti’s strength lies in Haitians [repetitions as heard throughout]. [Applause] It is true that we cannot get blood from a stone, but Haitians can make Haiti 2003 times more beautiful. Haitians can make Haiti 2003 times more beautiful. Haitians can make Haiti 2003 times more beautiful. Repeat with me please. Once again. Haitians can make Haiti 2003 times more beautiful.”
“Eating is a sacred right”
Aristide recalled that there was a great mobilization in 1803 and pointed out that in 2003 there must be even more mobilization. He then spoke about the mobilization for the government’s literacy campaign. He called on the people to demand respect for their rights. “In addition to education, education and freedom of speech, eating is a sacred right.” He made several comments on the people’s sacred right to eat while pointing out that “hunger is not sweet and an empty bag cannot stand. Therefore, the wall of apartheid must fall peacefully so that everybody can eat every day and several times a day.” [Applause]
Furthermore, he said: “Because every person is a person, everybody is supposed to eat. Eating is a sacred right. Everybody must eat every day. Therefore, we must shake the apartheid wall peacefully every day until everyone finds a seat around the table as they should.”
“Yes to elections, no to coup d’etat”
Aristide went on to say that Haiti’s 200 years of history must be turned towards building the rule of law. He advocated the spirit of compromise among all Haitians and denounced two extreme positions that should be rejected: “Dictatorship and anarchy. Let us put up democracy to oppose these extreme positions.”
He also spoke of the need to form the new Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) and called on the nine institutions concerned to send their representatives to the CEP. He added that the Haitian people would like elections to be held. After proposing a survey to determine whether the Haitian people want elections, he invited them to raise their hands if they agreed with his stance in favour of elections. Then he thanked them. He went on to say: “The people’s voice is God’s voice – The year 2002 is an electoral year. So, yes to elections, no to coup d’etat; yes to elections, no to coup d’etat; yes to elections, no to coup d’etat.”
Aristide then said: “Let us not be afraid of universal suffrage. Do not be afraid of universal suffrage; do not be afraid of universal suffrage. Are you afraid of going to elections?” The crowd answered: “No”. He recalled that a president is elected for five years and got the crowd to repeat with him: “It is not for 10 but for five years.” (This was repeated five times.) He announced that there will be security before and after the elections and congratulated the people, because they are in favour of elections in spite of their problems.
He went on to repeat again, twice (as heard): “Yes to elections, no to coup d’etat. Yes to elections, no to coup d’etat.” He asked if anybody would like to experience again the situation that prevailed after September 1991 when they used to go into hiding. After the crowd replied: “No”, he added that nobody would go into hiding again. He said: “We are a free people and we shall remain free. Nobody will go into hiding again.” He explained that everybody would like “to live in total and complete freedom” and went on to say that when there is a coup d’etat, the people go into hiding. Therefore, he invited them to take a stand against coups d’etat, against going into hiding and in favour of elections.
Unblocking the country
Then, after reiterating several times: “Haitians can make Haiti 2003 times more beautiful,” he explained that “too many forces of hypocrisy have blocked the country”. Then, he invited the audience to say with him and several times: “Unblock the country. Let us go: Unblock the country. [In chorus with the audience] Again: Unblock the country. [In chorus with the audience]. [Let us repeat it] louder: Unblock the country [together with the audience]. Is the country blocked? [the crowd answered: “Yes”] Would you like the country to be unblocked? [the crowd answers: “Yes”]. Let us cry aloud: Unblock the country – Let us repeat aloud and with all our hearts: Unblock the country.”
He asked the audience to applaud all those who are working for the development of the country. He called on the people to “mobilize all forces of truth to protect the country against lies, disinformation and denigration”. He invited the audience to stand against the forces that are telling lies about Haiti. He spoke of the need to raise higher the flag that represents Haiti’s dignity every day.
Artistide went on to recall: “A century ago, on 20 March 1903, President Nord Alexis invited his secretary of state for justice to inaugurate the Consolidation Legal Proceedings. Today, 100 years later, I invite the judicial authorities to open, as soon as possible, I say this well, to open as soon as possible; I am repeating, to open as soon as possible, the way for the trials [of the murderers] of Jean Dominique, Jean-Claude Louissaint, Minister Guy Malary, Fathers Jean-Marie Vincent and Jean Pierre-Louis, the victims of the Saint-Jean Bosco, Jean-Rabel and Piatte massacres, the 5,000 victims of the coups d’etat of 30 September 1991, 17 December  and 28 July 2001 [order of dates as heard].
“Legal proceedings must be instituted against the authors and parties to the villainous crimes perpetrated in the years 2001 and 2002 such as the murders of Brignol Lindor, the Duverger case, the murder of Maxime Seide, the murders by the armed branch of the opposition of: Judge Christophe Lozama and of citizens Louis Dorsainvil, Severe Joseph, Leony Laverne and Jean-Harry Sigue. Let us encourage the judicial authorities with patriotic applause.”
He added that “the struggle against impunity must continue because social peace and respect for human rights are intertwined”.
After asking if people in the audience had ever been victims of crime or had relatives who have been victims, he said: “Let us cooperate so that there can be more justice.” Then he offered a patriotic embrace to the police while expressing the hope that they will continue to establish more security.
Economic sanctions, measures
Aristide then asked, rhetorically:, “Is it necessary to recall how unfair the economic sanctions inflicted on our people are?” He described the sanctions as “a blatant violation of human rights”. He talked about the economic sacrifices made by the government in 2002 to keep the social and economic balance, despite the “disastrous consequences entailed by the economic sanctions”. He pointed out that the economic sanctions against the government have created a slowdown in economic activities. He also pointed out, however, that the government has made efforts to control the budget deficit and to maintain the stability of the exchange rate until June. He explained that investments totalling about 1.9bn gourdes, 21 per cent more than in 2001, had been made. These funds were invested in roads, schools and health centers, he said.
He then spoke of measures taken to make the Haitian economy more dynamic in 2003. He announced plans to fight drug trafficking and the continuation of the government’s policy of putting things right and of struggling against corruption in order to make good use of the government’s resources. He added that “administrative measures and the passage of bills aimed at modernizing the tax on turnover, income tax and the communications tax will allow an 8.5-per-cent increase in tax receipts”. He went on to say: “Monetary policy will be conducted in a cautious manner in order to allow the monetary authorities to preserve stability in the exchange rate.”
Aristide then announced amnesty and commutation of sentences for 78 convicted people in several geographic departments of the country in accordance with Articles 136 and 146 of the constitution and the law of 26 July 1906. He then asked the audience to applaud all those who had contributed to the alleviation of the sentences of these convicted people, because “the sufferings of some are also the sufferings of others” and the “problems of some must always be the problems of all of us and all of us must always unite to walk hand in hand with all those who are suffering, because we are a great people…”.
He went on to announce 14 projects which will be finished in the Artibonite region by 1 January 2004. He said: “The continuing projects will continue. When the embargo is lifted we shall have more money for the execution of more projects here in the Artibonite region and throughout the entire country by 2004.” The projects in the Artibonite region include land reform, the construction of the road between Saint-Marc and Gonaives, the construction of Gonaives Airport and the construction of a public high school which will be called “Lycee du Bicentenaire des Gonaives” and electricity 24 hours a day.
President Aristide finished his 50-minute speech by saying: “The earth moves in intergalactic space at 600 km per second, but it revolves around the sun at 30 km per second. On 1 January, may the planet earth revolve around the sun of freedom at a proportional speed. All stars are not suns but all suns are stars. May all our stars of freedom be lit to guide us during this new year until all of us return here to Gonaives on 1 January 2004 for the celebration of the bicentenary of our independence! Thank you.” [Applause]