The opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) is charging that Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s visit to the island is part of a design by Government to divert attention from the budget presentation scheduled for next month.
“We already know the political intentions,” said Audley Shaw, deputy leader of the JLP, while addressing party supporters at a constituency conference Sunday night.
“We already know that when he stays here for 10 weeks, the budget debate will come and go and instead of the issues of taxation… coming to the fore, they are hoping that the newspapers will tell us what Aristide ate for lunch each day.”
Party chairman Bruce Golding similarly accused the Patterson administration of using Aristide as a diversion.
“The whole intention is, if we can get everybody talking about Aristide and if you can get them quarrelling over Aristide, then people won’t know that come the first of April (when) property tax gone up, people won’t be talking about that, all they will be talking about is Aristide,” said Senator Golding.
He added, however, that the JLP would not fall for the distraction.
We won’t allow ourselves to be distracted; we have a focus. The Haitians have got rid of Aristide. Our purpose, our mission, our task must be to get rid of Aristide and the Haitians (as distractions)…”
Also, the JLP chairman is cautioning that the country could find itself entwined in a serious diplomatic controversy for inviting Mr. Aristide here.
Mr. Golding said the former Haitian President’s lawyers announced on Friday that they would be filing a suit against the United States Government and four officials of the French Government, including the French Ambassador to Haiti and the sister of the French Foreign Minister who is reported to have visited Haiti in December and encouraged Aristide to step down.
COST OF HOSTING ARISTIDES
At the South St. Catherine constituency conference held at the Old Harbour Primary School, much concern was expressed about the cost of hosting the ousted Haitian president. Audley Shaw, the JLP deputy leader, said K.D. Knight, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, could not give an answer as to how much it would cost to host Mr. Aristide and his family in the island over the eight to 10 weeks, when asked.
“Well, come hell or powder house they are going to answer my question in parliament, how much it is costing to bring Mr. Aristide to Jamaica?” he demanded with much applause and shouts of endorsement from the gathering.
Sharon Hay-Webster, Patterson’s emissary who escorted Aristide here yesterday from Central African Republic, said on radio that the trip by private jet was funded under arrangements made by U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters, with support from the US Congressional Black Caucus, Randall Robinson, and TransAfrica.
Bobby Montaque, Mayor of Port Maria, expressed his displeasure at the Government extending support to the Haitian refugees.
He said huge sums are being spent to construct proper infrastructure to accommodate them, while the citizens of St. Mary and surrounding areas continue to suffer from a lack of proper social and economic infrastructure.