Manning arrives for Haiti talks


Prime Minister Patrick Manning of Trinidad and Tobago, arrived Monday to participate in CARICOM-led talks with Haiti‘s opposition party this afternoon.

The two-day talks will be held at the Wyndham Nassau Resort and Crystal Palace Casino.

Mr. Manning said as a representative of CARICOM, it is hoped that the body could mediate in the political dispute in Haiti, which has led to violence.

Protesters marched through the streets of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, Sunday demanding the resignation of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The demonstrations led to violence where a few people were shot. Forty-six people have been killed in Haiti in anti-government demonstrations over the past four months.

“We come with no illusions. You know it’s a very difficult situation and President Aristide is not going to be here so we are talking only to one side. We therefore cannot hope for any agreement coming out of this ? no agreement is contemplated,” he said.

He said CARICOM is mounting the initiative and because Haiti is a member of the 15-nation Caribbean body it is the responsibility of CARICOM to offer assistance during this difficult period.

He said CARICOM is only talking to one side as a result of a fact-finding mission to Haiti, which the group participated in earlier this month. The team reported that both sides ought to be engaged in talks and a decision was made to hear the views of Haiti‘s opposition party for two days here.

“One of the major objectives of the initiative of course, is to preserve the stability of Haiti. That has to be one of our major objectives, and indeed it is,” he said.

There is suspicion among some members of Haiti‘s opposition party that CARICOM favours Aristide’s government and would not be objective with them. On that score Mr. Manning said he realises that there is a level of suspicion and that realisation is a signal that the talks would be challenging. He said leaders would therefore have to work harder to overcome that challenge.

Mr. Manning added that CARICOM could not throw its hands in the air and come to the conclusion that since Haiti‘s opposition has suspicions about the body it should not proceed with the talks.

He said based on the outcome of the talks, CARICOM would then decide if further discussions were necessary. He said he anticipated subsequent meetings with the opposition because of the severity of the political crisis.

In addition to the Trinidadian prime minister, Prime Minister Perry Christie and three other CARICOM representatives are expected to participate in the meetings, including Jamaica’s Prime Minister and CARICOM Chairman, P.J. Patterson, St. Lucia’s Prime Minister Kenny Anthony and the deputy prime minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Louis Straker.

Key Organisation of American States representatives and special observers from the United States and Canada will also attend.

The OAS representatives are expected to arrive here at 11:15 am and Jamaica‘s prime minister is expected at 2 pm. The talks are slated to start around 3pm.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has dubbed the meetings as crucial.

Haiti faces the possibility of expulsion from CARICOM if it continues to go against core values upheld by the body; one of which is for member States to permit free and fair elections.

Trinidad is a strong supporter of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy. The country’s bid to become the site of the headquarters of the FTAA was also endorsed by the region’s Heads of Government.