Originally: A Declaration of Principle Concerning the Bicentennial of Haiti?s Independence
A Declaration of Principle Concerning the Bicentennial of Haiti?s Independence
by a group of Haitian artists, writers, intellectuals and educators
Port-au-Prince, 20 October 2003
Four difficult years have passed since a small group of Haitian artists, intellectuals and writers first addressed President René Préval and his government to express their concern that the country was drifting into lawlessness?away from the ideals of pluralism and democracy.
Since that time, the increasing intensity and violence of human rights violations in Haiti have made it virtually impossible to celebrate, in unity, the two-hundredth anniversary of our Independence?the anniversary of the emergence of the first free nation of free men in the modern world.
On September 29, 2003, this group?now joined by many more of their colleagues?published and began to circulate the following ?Declaration of Principle? concerning the international observance of this historic moment of affirmation of the human spirit in the face of generations of indignity and exploitation.
Port-au-Prince, 29 September 2003
The first of January 2004 is approaching, bringing with it the two-hundredth anniversary of the independence of the Republic of Haiti.
We, the signatories of this Declaration?artists, writers, intellectuals, educators?fully cognizant of the significance of this anniversary both nationally and internationally, are compelled to express our perspective and our position on the events that are planned and will take place to commemorate the occasion.
Haiti?s independence, achieved in 1804, was the end result of an ensemble of struggles against slavery and its implications that were underway in Saint-Domingue at the time. This signal event unleashed the dynamic of abolition that would mark the course of the nineteenthth century throughout the Caribbean and Latin America; it represents an achievement of primordial importance in the universal history of mankind, insofar as it marks the advent, in the modern world, of the practical realization of the principles of liberty and equality.
We are profoundly disturbed by the way in which the current government of Haiti is orienting the official celebration of the Bicentennial of our Independence. In effect, this government is working to channel all diplomatic attention?and, indeed, the attention of all foreigners interested in the Bicentennial?into a propaganda campaign whose objective is the legitimization of its own usurpation of power; a power that is blatantly despotic and totalitarian, and that actively negates the principles and values that were the very foundations of the Haitian Revolution.
But three months away from the Bicentennial of the Republic of Haiti, we may observe that:
(1) The regime?s efforts to obtain reparations and restitution for slavery and for the treatment Haiti received from France following our successful revolution are nothing more than a desperate gambit on the part of those in power to divert attention from their own responsibilities, and to find a scapegoat to obfuscate their own failure. We, of course, recognize the necessity of reflecting upon this historical reality, and of opening a dialogue that may eventually lead to a response that is concordant with the complexity of this issue. Yet such initiatives are only conceivable between responsible interlocutors?on both sides?who share the fundamental values of liberty, equality and respect for humanity. The totalitarian tendencies, the incompetence and the corruption that characterize the current regime clearly disqualify it from playing its appropriate role in such a dialogue.
(2) The intolerable living conditions of eight million Haitians are only getting worse and worse, as a result of the ineptitude and paralysis of a government that plunders and wastes public funds, and has destroyed public administration itself. Moreover, this government actively promotes lawlessness and insecurity, by design, and with the sole purpose of perpetuating its hold on power: robberies, rapes, disappearances, harassment and assassinations have become, in effect, the stuff of everyday life for Haitians from all walks of life.
(3) While twenty or so journalists have been forced into exile, the assassinations of two of them remain unpunished; notwithstanding the fact that in one of these cases, the murderers?government partisans?have publicly avowed their culpability, yet continue to circulate freely, without ever having been apprehended. These same supporters of the regime continue to hold journalists and the independent media hostage to their persistent threats of violence.
(4) Political pluralism has been systematically rejected by the current government. Witness the looting and arson of the headquarters of most opposition political parties, and the recurrent arbitrary detention and disappearances of community and political activists. All of this in spite of the Constitution?s guarantees, in spite of the protests of all sectors of the nation, properly recapitulated in the OAS?s Resolution 822.
(5) Finally, the right of every citizen to circulate freely has been abridged. Certain areas have been officially designated as ?off-limits? to opposition political parties and to civil society organizations.
In the face of this totalitarian deviation, we?Haitian artists, writers, intellectuals and educators:
Ø Declare our refusal to associate ourselves with the official celebration of our Bicentennial, through which the government is futilely seeking nothing more than its own legitimization.
Ø Invite the Haitian people, and foreign institutions and individuals, to refuse to be manipulated and seduced by the tyrannical power that is currently in control of Haiti. It would be profoundly regrettable if this regime, going forward, should be able to take advantage either of the passivity of its victims, or of the support of foreign individuals or institutions?no matter how well-intentioned?on the occasion of the Bicentennial, to escape the ostracism to which History itself, and the Haitian people, whom it has martyred, must ultimately condemn it.
Signed in Port-au-Prince, 29 September 2003.
The names of the initial signatories follow:
Jessy Ewald Benoît
Magalie Comeau Denis
Enock Charles Faustin
Jude Charles Faustin
André Lafontant Joseph
Frandley Denis Julien
Gérard Mathieu Junior
Guy Régis Junior
Amilcar Similien (Simil)
Michel Rolph Trouillot
For those who would like to join us in this petition, please sign by addressing yourselves to the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Port-au-Prince, 29 September 2003