We are pleased that Jamaica has taken the lead in promoting a Caricom engagement of Haiti with the aim of ending the political crisis in that country.

Indeed, it is a course of action which this newspaper, twice last week, urged on Prime Minister P J Patterson, but which Jamaica and its Caricom partners had already put in train.
The action by Caricom, we think, is important in two respects.

Firstly, it is a signal of a new willingness of the mainly English-speaking members of the Caricom to fully embrace Haiti into the regional family and to recognise it as a full partner in the community – not as a country whose presence is tolerated and even acknowledged but whose status is in limbo.

Which is how the rest of the Caribbean, and in particular the English-speaking states, have tended to treat Haiti. With this sense of superiority.

The truth is that the tendency is on occasion to recall with romantic vision the achievements and ideal of the Haitian revolution. For there is a pride, in mostly black nations, in knowing that a black slave army defeated the powerful French colonisers to create the world’s first black republic more than a 150 years before any other member of Caricom received its independence and nearly decades before slavery was abolished in the British Caribbean.

Yet, our prevailing vision of Haiti is of its poverty, its dictatorships, its political dictatorships and our naive assumption of it as a society mired only in backwardness. It is an attitude born of an arrogance that has its foundation in a colonial process that was not divisive but had the capacity to draw imaginary lines between people who might otherwise share common cause.

Any engagement of Haiti, helps to remove these barriers and help to exploit the commonwealth of interests between people who share a similar history, and whose only significant difference is language.

Moreover, it is our view that in the context of today’s increasingly globalised world, instability in Haiti does not, ultimately, exist in isolation. Haiti‘s problems, in the end, become, too, the problem of its neighbours, not least in terms of an unstructured illegal immigration.

Conversely, a stable and prosperous Haiti is good for the region. In the case of Caricom it is, in terms of population, the community’s largest market.

But we have another reason why we welcome the move by Caricom. The move points to the continuing emergence of the community not only as an economic grouping but as a political entity.

In this sense it reflects the growth of the community faster than the pace of its formal institutions. For in the case of Guyana (twice), St Vincent and now Haiti, Caricom is asserting itself as a political force, taking steps that have the feel of nascent sovereign authority.

This is good for the advancement of the proposed Caribbean single market and economy. For if we grow comfortable with such political interventions it is only a small step to ceding authority to some supranational council for its management of the affairs of the single market. Which is a good track towards creating a genuinely seamless economic space.

But the announcement by President Aristide of Haiti that he will welcome a fact-finding mission to his country must not be allowed to be end of the process.

Hopefully, he and the Haitian opposition demanding his resignation will attend the proposed special summit that Mr Patterson has offered to host.

Caricom must tell all parties to the Haitian conflict that if they wish their country to be truly part of the regional family, and gain any benefits that the community has to offer, then they must behave with maturity and come to the table in good faith.

Having started this political process, the community needs now to begin to think of terms of sanctions for errant members.

Except for the views expressed in the columns above, the articles published on this page do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the Jamaica Observer.