SO, THE American Secretary of State who has finally admitted to being wrong in his intelligence assessment to justify the war on Iraq, is now saying that he sees “no purpose” in an independent inquiry into the circumstances of the removal from power of Haiti’s elected President Jean Bertrand Aristide.   There is an old saying, with which I am sure Mr Colin Powell is quite familiar: If  there is nothing to hide, then there is nothing to fear. Therefore, why should the George Bush administration,  of which he is such a major decision-maker,  be opposed to a United Nations-led probe into the downfall of the Aristide presidency, as called for, and currently being advanced by our Caribbean Community (Caricom) governments?

Powell turned up in Port-au-Prince on Monday to stamp his government’s support for the post-Aristide interim regime of which the loquacious and unpredictable Gerard Latortue is Prime Minister.  It was Powell’s way of giving “legitimacy” to a regime, basically the choice of the USA, which  has been accused by Aristide of being a party with France to “kidnap” him from power and fly him out of his homeland amid the then prevailing killings and chaos.

Latortue was next to Powell when the US Secretary of State rejected Caricom’s international probe call—one, incidentally, backed by the 53-member African Union and the wider African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of nations, as well as allies in Latin America.  Earlier, bitter over Caricom’s refusal to recognise his regime and engage him in dialogue, even  following his shocking suspension of Haiti’s membership in Caricom and subsequent embrace of known criminals and political thugs as “liberators”, Latortue had poured his scorn on the 15-member Community:

Without Haiti and neighbouring Dominican Republic, he was reported as saying, “Caricom is nothing”. He ought to know that neither the government of the Dominican Republic, nor, more importantly, the USA, holds such a contemptuous view of Caricom.

But Latortue’s “discovery” of the Comnunity’s “worthlessness” came only after he had failed to gain an audience with Caricom leaders while they were preparing for their 15th Inter-Sessional Meeting in St.Kitts. They did so after determing that Latortue’s  “clarification” of his anti-Caricom stance, and  perplexing embrace of criminals and killers as “liberators”, was unsatisfactory.

More pertinent, why should the Bush administration feel it can so openly reject, as Powell did in Port-au-Prince, Caricom’s call for an investigation—of which it had been officially alerted weeks ago—and yet expect this region’s cooperation with an administration of highly dubiouss legitimacy?

Having joined with France and, most surprisingly, Canada in torpedoing the “Caricom Initiative” on the governance crisis in Haiti that it had earlier endorsed,  why should the USA be allowed to go unchallenged by Powell’s claim that there “is no purpose” in investigating Aristide’s removal from office.

It was simply not easy for Caricom leaders at their March 3 emergency summit in Jamaica, to ignore some of the very sweeping allegations of a Washington–Paris-backed plot to remove Aristide from office.  The alleged plot was seemingly enhanced with the cover provided by a conveniently-manoeuvred United Nations Security Council resolution to suddenly authorise the sending of a  military force to Haiti that coincided with the dramatic departure of the Haitian President, and allowed the anti-Aristide forces to subsequently arrive as “liberators” in the capital, Port-au-Prince.

An independent, international investigation of the highest order seems necessary to either expose the fallacy, or confirm the truth of claims by Aristide of being forced out of power and taken captive by American and French forces. 

Aristide’s rule has been marked by controversies and it would be foolish and indecent to ignore some of the allegations by his domestic opponents of crimes committed under his watch.We are also aware of the convergence of interests between  America and France. But if their governments have nothing to hide, they should have no fear of the outcome of an international inquiry.

Today, after all the questions raised and passionately debated amid new disclosures about the origin and the conspirators of the infamous “Rawandan genocide”—the 10th anniversary of which is being observed this week with the shedding of international crocodile tears—let the investigation commendably called for by Caricom take place, as soon as possible.   .

Right now, while Aristide, currently in temporary exile with his family in Jamaica, has been filing lawsuits against unnamed American and French officials for allegedly “kidnapping” him out of power, the interim US-created and supported regime in Port-au-Prince has disclosed  moves of its own:

Within three days of the disclosure of Aristide’s “kidnapping” lawsuit, first filed in France, the Latortue regime in Haiti was to announce plans seeking the extradition of the ousted Haitian President to face trial by an international tribunal on charges of assassinations and possession of some US$1 (one) Billion of monies that belong to the people of Haiti.

The stakes are indeed high and the battle lines fiercely drawn. Governments,  representative organisations and institutions of CARICOM will have more than an academic interest in the unfolding dramas. Haiti, after all, is a full-fledged member of CARICOM, though its seat at Councils of the 15-member Community remain vacant at this time with sharp disagreements pertaining to the legitimacy of the regime in Port-au-Prince.

In accordance with a decision at the recent Inter-Sessional Meeting in St.Kitts, Caricom is in the process of choosing a Special Envoy to work with the Core Group of Community Prime Ministers on Haiti to help in interfacing with the international community. 

 Specifically, in coordinating  relations with the UN, Organsation of American States and other partners on the governance crisis in Haiti, including related issues of restoration of a democratic process and rebahilitation of the country in the interest of the Haitian people.

Such “interfacing” with the international community can hardly be pursued without the called for probe to determine who is really lying, or telling the truth on Jean Bertrand Aristide’s removal from office before dawn on Sunday, February 29.