Patterson meets Aristide
Carl Gilchrist, Observer staff reporter
Thursday, March 18, 2004
OCHO RIOS, St Ann – Overthrown Haitian president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, yesterday reassured Prime Minister P J Patterson that he would not use his time in Jamaica to carry out political activities that could threaten stability in Haiti.
“I want to assure the people of Jamaica that I would never use the kind opportunity provided by my brothers and sisters here in Jamaica to engage in any political activity or to do anything that could hinder the process of peace in my beloved country of Haiti,” Aristide told Patterson, according to his spokesman, Huntley Medley.
It was also disclosed yesterday that Aristide’s wife, Mildred, who arrived with him on Monday from the Central African Republic, has gone to the United States to collect their two young girls – Christine, seven, and Michaelle, five, who have been staying there with relatives.
She left Jamaica on Tuesday, but officials declined to say when she will return.
Patterson flew by Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) helicopter to the rambling, ranch-style bungalow at Lydford, St Ann in Jamaica’s hilly north-west region, where he is hosting the Aristides, for a luncheon meeting with the deposed leader.
It was the first meeting between the men since Aristide arrived in the island from the Central African Republic.
Jamaica has received diplomatic flak from the United States and Haiti’s interim government for its decision to give Aristide temporary asylum, although Kingston has made it clear that it has warned him against using Jamaica as a “launching pad” for a power grab in Haiti.
Critics have said that Aristide’s presence in Jamaica, 200 kilometres from Haiti, would energise his followers and drive instability there. But Aristide told Patterson that was not his intention.
“I want peace for Haiti, I want peace for Jamaica, for the Caribbean and all people everywhere,” Medley quoted him as saying. “I want to be part of the process of promoting peace.”
Aristide has insisted that he was all but kidnapped and bundled out of Haiti by US forces, a charge the Americans deny. They say that he was provided, at his request, with security and transportation to leave the country. Caricom, which had proposed a power-sharing arrangement in Haiti that would have kept Aristide in power, called for an international investigation into his overthrow.
The Americans have denied the claims.
“I again want to thank my Caricom colleagues, Prime Minister Patterson, and the government and people of Jamaica for welcoming us here,” Aristide said.
Aristide, during yesterday’s meeting, also updated Patterson, who is Caricom’s chairman, on the progress he has made to find permanent asylum, as well as his plans for reuniting with his children.
It was also likely that Patterson received more specific information of discussions Aristide had with American officials in Haiti leading up to his ostensible resignation and exile.
Patterson will chair a Caricom summit in St Kitts later this month at which the Haiti issue, including recognition of the interim government headed by Gerard Latortue, will be high on the agenda.
Yesterday, the new US-backed Cabinet was installed in Haiti without a single member of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s Lavalas Family party, setting the stage for a showdown at home and with already antagonised Caribbean leaders.