published: Saturday | April 3, 2004

JEAN-BERTRAND Aristide, the ousted former Haitian President, could depart Jamaica sooner than planned, Prime Minister P.J. Patterson said yesterday.

Mr. Aristide and his wife Mildred arrived in Jamaica on March 15 for an eight to 10 week visit to re-unite with their two young daughters and to make arrangements for permanent asylum in another country.

Yesterday, Mr. Patterson who was addressing journalists during a press conference at his Jamaica House office, said arrangements for permanent asylum for the Aristides were close to being finalised.

“The arrangements are far advanced for his place of permanent residence,” the Prime Minister said. “If that materialises his visit could be shorter than eight to 10 weeks. I can’t say how much shorter.”

Although he is part of the discussions to find a permanent home for Mr. Aristide, Mr. Patterson would not be drawn on where he is headed, although speculations are still rife that the ex-president’s next place of abode will be South Africa.


Meantime, none of the 179 Haitians who fled Haiti for Jamaica since the February civil unrest have applied for asylum. When asked how long they are likely to remain, Mr. Patterson said he was not certain but reiterated that Jamaica was honouring its “obligations under international law.” On Wednesday, 62 of the refugees were removed from Portland to Montpellier, St. James where they are likely to remain for several months.

On Jamaica’s relations with the United States which were at best tense, when Mr. Patterson first announced that Aristide would be visiting Jamaica, the Prime Minister admitted that: “At the beginning they (United States authorities) were distinctly uncomfortable because of the proximity of Jamaica to Haiti. Their level of discomfort has been diminishing as the time has passed, especially because of the deportment of Mr. Aristide (while in Jamaica).”

The ousted president has given a commitment not to interfere with the political situation in Haiti while he is in Jamaica, or to do anything that would disrupt efforts to broker a lasting peace in the troubled country which has had 30 coups in its 200 years of independence.