March 19, 2004
JAMAICA yesterday urged its Caribbean Community (CARICOM) partners to hold ranks on the Haiti issue as Prime Minister P J Patterson signalled that he has no intention of engaging in a diplomatic spat with Barbados over Jamaica’s decision to host deposed Haitian leader, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
But Patterson also disclosed that his foreign minister, K D Knight, notified CARICOM governments, as well as the United States and Canada, about the Aristide visit on March 11 – five days before his arrival.
“In accordance with the principles by which the Community has been guided, it is essential to our unity of purpose (on the Haiti issue) be maintained and that there be total cohesion on all fronts,”
Patterson said in a statement “Accordingly, Jamaica does not propose to become engaged in any internal wrangle or diplomatic row.”
The prime minister’s remark was an obvious response to media portrayal of remarks in Bridgetown by Barbados’ foreign minister, Billie Miller, that she was informed “after the fact” about Jamaica’s decision to allow Aristide to come here for up to 10 weeks.
“This is clearly a matter between the government of Jamaica and Mr Aristide but there are clear implications for us…” Miller said in the Barbadian parliament.
CARICOM countries, including the Barbadian prime minister, Owen Arthur, criticized the manner in which Aristide was removed as Haiti’s leader on February 29 and were angered that the United States, Canada and France bailed out of a Community plan that would have had Aristide stay in office but share power with his opponents.
Patterson, in yesterday’s statement, said he felt his decision to entertain Aristide’s request to come to Jamaica – from exile in the Central African Republic – to reunite with this two young children, was “consistent with the spirit and tenor” of an emergency summit by CARICOM leaders in Kingston after Aristide’s overthrow.
“Given Jamaica’s tradition of providing temporary refuge for political leaders and other personalities from Haiti and elsewhere, our present leadership responsibilities in CARICOM and our renowned capacity for extending hospitality to families wishing a private reunion… I proceeded to make the necessary arrangements to receive him here,” Patterson said.
The Jamaican leader also reminded that Gerard Latortue, which has criticized Aristide’s presence in Jamaica, has been among Haitians who have found refuge in Jamaica. He came to Jamaica in 1963 after Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier came to power, and lived and worked here before going to Puerto Rico.