Originally: St Vincent premier rejects Caricom position on Haiti

St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has rejected the recommendation of Caribbean Community (Caricom) foreign ministers on the way forward in relations with Haiti.

Well-placed Caricom sources tell  the Caribbean Media Corporation that a five-member ministerial delegation, which recently visited Port-au-Prince has recommended that Caricom “fully engage” Haiti’s interim Gerard Latortue administration, following Haiti’s recent suspension from the councils of Caricom.

But in an interview with the Caribbean Media Corporation on Wednesday, August 4, 2004,  Dr. Gonsalves said he does not accept the recommendation of the ministers and remains strongly opposed to recognition for the interim government, which came to power in Haiti following the controversial removal of President Jean Bertrand Aristide from office in late February.

While stating that he has nothing personal against Latortue or that he was not holding any brief for Aristide, Gonsalves remains adamant that the matter is one of principle.

“As far as I am concerned what is there in Haiti does not pass muster for Caricom,” he told CMC.

The Vincentian leader also said there was need for “unequivocal evidence” on the ground in Haiti of the country’s return to democracy; that opposition groups, including Aristide’s Lavalas party can engage in normal political activity; and that known criminals opposed to Aristide are not given preferential treatment.

“Let the law be ‘blind’. Let us have a blind justice in other words you go for everybody,” he told CMC.

While Haiti remains an important topic on the Caricom agenda, Gonsalves also questioned the speed with which Caricom was moving to settle the matter of Haiti, even as it continues to drag its feet on a number of other things including the Caricom Single Market and Economy.

While others may not share his view, he made it clear that he would not be sitting down at any Caricom Heads of Government meeting with Latortue.

The delegation of foreign ministers, which recently visited Haiti was headed by Barbados’s foreign minister Billie Miller.

While in Haiti, the team met with representatives of the various political groupings, civil society as well as members of the provisional electoral council in Haiti.

Caricom leaders have since set an August 16 deadline for reaching a decision on Haiti.

A Caricom source said the group’s recommendation was based on the fact that Caricom can no longer afford to engage Haiti in a “piecemeal fashion”, adding that such an approach was not only impractical but does not assist Haitian people.

The delegation, which visited Haiti has also taken note of the fact that Cuba is deeply engaged in Haiti and that Jamaica and the Bahamas – two members of Caricom – currently have diplomatic relations with Haiti.

In addition the Organization of American States and the United Nations are very active in Port-au-Prince, the source said.

The source therefore suggests that Caricom cannot afford to be left out of the loop and must move to engage Haiti and to assist in needed areas, in particular organization of fresh elections.