RESCUING HAITI – Region prepared to assist, but on invitation only
PRIME MINISTER P.J. Patterson, reporting on two days of talks on Haiti, said yesterday that countries in and outside the region were prepared to assist Haiti to restore order there, but would only do so on invitation.
Mr. Patterson, current chair of Caribbean Community (CARICOM), has called on President Jean Bertrand Aristide to release his political prisoners, scrap the armed gangs and paramilitary groups, and ensure the security of Haitians.
“It is clear that Haiti is going to need some external assistance to put the required security in place,” said Mr. Patterson.
But he said : “We are not sending in an invading force,” having noted that CARICOM, Canada, the United States and the Organi
CARICOM, following discussions with representatives of Haiti?s political opposition, church and civil society groups, said its proposals for working towards a solution to the political crisis and social instability would be delivered to Aristide by Bahamian Prime Minister Perry Christie “at the earliest possible time”.
The talks were held in The Bahamas.
But Mr. Patterson said the proposals did not extend to an agreement with the groups calling for Aristide to step down.
Instead, they “recognise that a situation of calm and good order is a prerequisite for the holding of parliamentary elections which are now due,” said a statement from Jamaica House.
They also call for the release of political prisoners and other detainees ordered released by the Haitian courts.
Mr. Patterson said CARICOM was particularly concerned about 19 students reportedly arrested on December 5.
Further talks, this time with President Aristide and members of the ruling Lavalas Family Party, are expected to be held in Jamaica before a full report on the matter is discussed at the Inter-sessional meeting of CARICOM which is set for Antigua in March.
Over the past three months, Haiti has been rocked by a series of violent demonstrations aimed at ousting Aristide who is accused of mismanaging the country of an estimated eight million, largely poor, population.
Since December, pro and anti-government protesters have been clashing weekly, sometimes daily, mainly in the streets of Port-au-Prince as groups, including the Opposition, strengthen their resolve to have Aristide resign. They also accuse his administration of corruption.
The security forces are also out attempting to bring the capital back under control, with little success to date. They have been accused of favouring pro-Aristide supporters, 20,000 of whom marched in support of the embattled president on Wednesday.