Prime Minister Perry Christie will be travelling to Haiti in a few days to meet with president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and outline the positions made by the Haitian opposition groups during their meetings here.
Following his short trip to Haiti, the Prime Minister will return to The Bahamas but will soon be travelling again to Kingston Jamaica for more Haiti talks.
The announcement of the Prime Minister’s trips was made at a CARICOM heads press conference at the Wyndham Nassau Resort and Crystal Palace Casino Wednesday, following the two-day, intense talks with Haiti’s political opposition. The opposition groups involved the main “Convergence Democratique” party and a coalition organisation “Group of 184,” comprising of professionals in commerce, industry, education, civic organisations and the Protestant Federation of Churches.
Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister, Patrick Manning termed the meetings as successful and said he believed that CARICOM was able to change the minds of many in the opposition groups, who had strong suspicions about the Caribbean body. He said many of them believed that CARICOM was a club in which president Aristide played an integral part. He said he believed that they now have a different impression of the organisation.
His views were echoed by Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, who added that as CARICOM head, he wrote to the United States President and Canadian Prime Minister about the political crisis in Haiti and asked them to send special observers here.
He said the talks were not a negotiation session and no agreement was expected. Mr. Patterson then stressed that Haiti’s opposition forces also made it clear from the beginning that they were not coming here to negotiate.
He added that demonstrations which took place in Haiti while the Nassau talks were going on should not be seen as a failure in the talks as the opposition has a right to demonstrate and CARICOM did not take a stance for there to be a secession of demonstrations during the meetings.
The Jamaican leader pointed out that CARICOM believes that Haiti is at a perilous juncture and the potential for even greater violence and instability exist.
He also said Haiti should not be denied economic assistance as a result of its political crisis as such denial would only further devastate the country. He said CARICOM cannot do it alone and is recommending the support of the United Nations, the European Community and other international fundraising agencies to assist in solving the crisis.
Haiti is also a member of the Organisation of American States and acknowledges key resolutions of the group. Resolution 806, 822 and 1959 support the democratic principals of free and fair elections. 
Mr. Patterson said CARICOM finds the presence of strong-arm groups being discharged as security forces repugnant and has called on the republic to discontinue such practices.
The Jamaican leader then acknowledged CARICOM’s concern about the 19 students detained in the precincts of a university in Haiti on December 5, 2003.
He said what was also noteworthy, is that several vacancies still exist in government but nobody is satisfied that the machinery is in place for elections to take place and hence is not seeking to fill those positions. He said there must be electoral reform, external financial and technical support as well as external supervision in order for the framework for elections to be established.
Haiti’s Opposition groups are at a stage where they believe talks with Aristide’s “Lavalas” government is a waste of time. They are also bitterly opposed to the present constitutional condition where president Aristide is ruling by decree following the January 12 expiry of the parliamentary mandate.
President Aristide’s term does not expire until the end of 2005, and under the Constitution, he is not required to leave office until 2006. CARICOM backs the Haitian constitution in this regard and said Aristide should remain in office unless he is voted out by Haitian people during a general election.
Haiti will again be a troubling issue at CARICOM’s next intercessional meeting to be held in Antigua near the end of March.
The CARICOM heads during the talks here involved Prime Minister Perry Christie, Jamaican Prime Minister, P.J. Patterson and the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Patrick Manning. The United States, Canada and the Organisation of American States sent representatives to monitor the meeting.
Following last night’s press conference, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs staged a similar venue in the same room involving members of the local Haitian community, including key Haitian and Bahamian pastors to discuss the problems in that republic and ways to solve them.
The press will again meet with Haitian opposition leaders at a conference at the hotel at 9:30 this morning before they leave the country. The opposition groups were said to be looking forward to the meeting and would present their views in a frank manner.
Posted: Thursday January 22, 2004