Amb. Orlando Marville of Barbados was chief of the
OAS electoral observation mission in Haiti in 2000.
He is a founding board member of the Haiti
Sunday 25, January-2004
As North Americans are wont to say, it is déjà vu all over again. Like President Preval, when the Senate refused to appoint his nominee as Prime Minister (The Senate in Haiti, like that in the United States has, as distinct from ours, at least in theory, real teeth.), Aristide has decided to rule by decree. The mandate of the Parliament has expired and he intends to rule by Presidential decree, evidently beyond the date of the end of his mandate. He has also made another of his empty promises to have elections in six months.
How can elections be conducted in six months, when both he and the Opposition have stubbornly refused to have anything of a dialogue with respect to the composition of the Electoral Council? How much time will this take and how much more will it take to have a voting system in place? It should be remembered that since Haiti has never had a permanent electoral body, a complete new census will be required (and the logistical difficulties are a nightmare) and that it is actually not possible without several million dollars in not available resources to pull this off.
The dispute here is real. On the last occasion when yet another Provisional Electoral Council was created, although it was during the presidency of Preval, Aristide made sure that he planted a spy within the council, and no matter what the Council decided, he was privy to it within the hour. Additionally, the body was ultimately controlled by the administrative secretary of the council, even though he did not sit in on the meetings of the council.
In any case, when the president of the Provisional Electoral Council, who was and remains an honourable man, refused to sign off on the cooked up results of the elections for the Senate, he had to flee the country for fear of his life. The Aristide camp then put out the rumour that he had been kidnapped. The story of that ?kidnapping? would bear some telling, but it must remain a deep secret.
Finally, Sir John Compton, CARICOM?s constant envoy to Haiti ? his Creole has clearly been helpful in getting him generally understood by many outside of the Aristide camp ? has recommended that Haiti be suspended from CARICOM. Interestingly, Haiti should never have become a full member of CARICOM. It had been agreed that Haiti would become a full member when it had a duly elected Senate to ratify the provisional agreement on trade and other issues that had been reached after several negotiating sessions between Haiti and CARICOM.
Since the Aristide Senate was anything but duly constituted, there should not have been the final step taken to have the agreement ratified. However, after some sentimental mouthing by some CARICOM leaders and the usual reluctance of the five or more Heads of Government who were not keen to admit Haiti at that time, the decision was made. It has taken Sir John all of three years travelling back and forth, paralleling the OAS effort, to agree that Haiti does not yet belong to what is touted as the democratic Caribbean.
In the interim, the demonstrations go on. Ever since the killing, allegedly by Aristide?s own people of an op gang leader, who claimed to be pro Lavalas (Aristide?s Party), the population in general has been in revolt and demonstrations take place now even in the heart of Port-au-Prince as well as in Cap-Haitien in the North, which has tended to be a Republic in its own. It is now clear, that in spite of Aristide?s arrangement of the occasional counter-demonstration, that the people of Haiti no longer want the monster that the poor, demagogue of a priest has become.
Regrettably, this dislike of Aristide will inevitably spill off on CARICOM and the OAS, both of which have hesitated to come to grips with the manoeuvres of Aristide, while naively believing that he would come around to being a democrat and play by the rules.
One wonders whether Sir John?s call will be acted upon or whether there will be further delay while Aristide switches tactics much in the way that his spiritual predecessor, Dr Duvalier, was so adept at doing. While Duvalier kept playing the Communist card ? the Communists are coming, the Communists are coming ? an option no longer available to Aristide, he will undoubtedly promise elections, declare his willingness to effect compromise and so on.
The problem is that all the middle class Haitians who once believed that Aristide could bring democracy to Haiti have long since denied ever having any sympathies for him, and the population at large has had enough. The only question is when and how he will leave.
It is therefore absolutely important that CARICOM heads declare that they are unable further to support the lack of governance that the Aristide regime has fostered and is now desperately trying to blame all and sundry for. This would at least give some comfort to the thousands of civic and religious groups that have for so long opposed Aristide.