THE conference communique at the end of the recently concluded 15th Inter-sessional meeting of Caricom Heads of Government paid tribute to Jamaican Prime Minister PJ Patterson for what it said was “the leadership” he displayed in guiding the community through its positions on the current crisis in Haiti.
It also expressed the appreciation of the region’s governments and peoples for the granting by Jamaica of temporary asylum to ousted Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
When he spoke at the opening ceremony in Basseterre on March 25 in his capacity as outgoing Caricom chairman, Patterson said the region had every reason to be proud of its role in the affair.
Going further, he said it was his view that the Caricom’s Charter of Civil Society had to move now from being a non-binding statement of ideals to a legally binding instrument by which the region will seek to further enhance the principles of governance through democracy and respect for the rule of law.
“We might be small in size and we make no claim to military power,” Patterson told his audience in Basseterre. “But our influence in the hemisphere cannot be underestimated. I do not believe there will be a lasting and permanent solution to the problems in Haiti unless Caricom is involved and allowed to make a meaningful contribution.
“Nothing can be achieved without our collective support and without the single vision we have always had for the region’s development and the maintenance of Caricom’s integrity,” he added.
This was his way of reiterating what, at the end of the two full days of discussions at the headquarters of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, the Trinidad and Tobago Foreign Minister presented for a reporter’s consideration.
Knowlson Gift wondered whether the region’s populations recognised the significance of the fact that the situation in Haiti had placed Caricom at the centre of world events.
He had moments earlier been speaking, in the lobby of the Marriott Hotel in the posh Frigate Bay area outside Basseterre, with the Canadian High Commissioner to Trinidad and Tobago, Simon Wade, and the Costa Rican Ambassador to this country as well, both diplomats having attended the summit as interested observers.
In fact, High Commissioner Wade spent much of the two days of the summit casing the joint in the lobby of the bank building. He was grabbing reporters in search of snatches of information on the proceedings. He was listening in on news huddles as reporters button-holed delegates.
Feverishly taking notes during the addresses at the opening ceremony, Wade said afterwards he was hoping for a positive outcome on the Haiti question because he wanted to let the leaders know of Canada’s deep interest in working with them in “the next phase” of ‘Operation Haiti Rescue’, and how important it was for Caricom to not lose resolve. He then had a long and involved discussion with Trinidad and Tobago’s Reginald Dumas, the retired diplomat who has been plucked into service as the Special Adviser on Haiti to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.
Dumas had been there to brief the leaders on his assignment, having arrived in Basseterre after ten days in Haiti. He left there the next day for New York, where he was to present a report to Annan and then meet with the UN Security Council on March 30.
“That’s a very good decision,” Wade had said, after the Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister announced in general terms, late on the evening of March 26, the package of decisions taken at the conference on how Caricom would now be engaged in the process. “That’s very good news. It is a positive outcome,” he said, staying on later that evening, right to the very end, waiting for a copy of the communique which was issued at the end of the wrap-up news conference which began just before one o’clock on the morning of March 27.
It was more than comforting to have seen the High Commissioner on the benches in the lobby, at one point losing the battle against sleep, not at all distinguishable from the two dozen or so reporters and other official hangers-on that Friday night.
When in late February the US Secretary of State was captured on the international television networks telling reporters that the US supported “the Car-a-cam initiative” on Haiti, the question had arisen as to how many people knew the word, and what part of the world it referred to.
Dumas’s brief to the Security Council this past week will have as a likely follow-up, the formal request for an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Aristide’s departure from Haiti on February 27. As it marks 200 years of independence this year, Haiti had in Aristide its first democratically elected head of government. But this is now the second time in his tenure that he has been run out of office, and out of his country.
The communique read that the Basseterre summit had reiterated its call for such an investigation “in light of contradictory reports still in circulation” concerning Aristide’s departure.
It said also that the heads “reiterated their view that there had been a disruption of the democratic process in Haiti”.
At the wrap-up news conference on March 27, Ralph Gonzalves, Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, said the Security Council was one of the bodies through which the request for an investigation could be made.
He said it could also go directly to the Secretary General himself, or alternatively through the General Assembly, depending on advice which the leaders are now seeking from attorneys.
Sheer coincidence also, is the fact that the current President of the General Assembly is Julian Hunte, the Foreign Minister of St Lucia, who has been actively involved in the ongoing efforts of the Organisation of American States on the Haitian question.
In an interview on the TV6 Morning Edition six weeks ago, Luigi Einaudi had sought to make clear, again, exactly what Colin Powell insisted a month ago, and what both PJ Patterson and Knowlson Gift were reiterating in Basseterre.
Ambassador Einaudi is the Assistant Secretary General of the OAS and he was insisting that the organisation’s work in and on Haiti could not go on in any other manner except with the active participation and involvement of the governments and peoples of the Caribbean Community at the centre of it all.
It is the ratification of the position which High Commissioner Wade had sought in Basseterre, and which, for him, was necessary for his own Government to get involved in the reconstruction of the Haitian state, and the restoration of democracy there.