Press Release from the Communication Office of the Prime Minister

Regarding the position of the Interim Government of Haiti on the current social and political situation, in response to certain queries and allegations formulated through some media

There is no witch-hunt

 As soon as the interim government took office, the political parties as a whole and numerous civil society organizations demanded the dismissal of overzealous or corrupted high-ranking officials under the dictatorship of Jean Bertrand Aristide or who allegedly have been involved in killings or embezzlements of public money.  At present, we still come under fire from political groups and civil society organizations for being ?lax.?  While we understand their frustrations, the interim government has refrained from firing civil service employees.  There has been practically no change in the civil service personnel (less than 1% overall) except for the appointment of new general directors to head certain state institutions.  Furthermore, the entire civil service personnel has received at least a 33% salary raise and strict instructions have been given to ensure that no one in civil service is the subject of attacks, isolation or humiliation because of their political affiliations.  Thus, there has not been, and there will not be a witch-hunt.

 The first victims of terror acts are the underprivileged classes

 In the majority of cases, the poverty-stricken population living in the slums is the prime victim of the violent acts perpetrated by those who proclaim to be Aristide?s supporters.  They openly claim responsibility for such acts over radio broadcasts such as Radio Métropole, Radio Caraïbe, etc. to name just these media.  Once again, a number of young people from these neighborhoods, especially those who took part in the movement which toppled the Lavalas regime seven months ago, have been forced to go in hiding or to migrate, leaving their family behind, to escape from the necklace torture or the so-called ?Operation Baghdad.?

It must also be underlined that since September 30, which is the anniversary of the coup that overthrew Aristide in 1991, partisans of the deposed regime have constantly claim responsibility for the terror they have instilled, operating under names echoing doom and gloom such as: ?Operation Baghdad? or ?Armée sans tête? (Beheading army), etc. Downtown, the stalls of street vendors being sacked are daily occurrence, plunging the population further into poverty.  Cars have been set on fire, houses sacked and burnt down.  On Friday and Saturday, October 15 and 16, about ten heavily armed bandits attacked peasants and residents in the village of Coteaux, in the South of the country.  The victims have named, as head of the gang, a former contested member of Parliament under the Lavalas regime.  The Police is ill-equipped and lack the resources to face the M-16 and M-1 brandished by these fanatical hordes chanting ?Aristide or death!?  Regrettably, this is the reality confronted by the most destitute category in the population and by the police striving to regain the trust of the people after Aristide?s departure.

With a general state of panic, killings, intra-urban exoduses, Aristide?s supporters would have once more demonstrated that violence is their only means of laying down their law.

 The legality and necessity of the arrests

 Incitement to violence is a daily staple for avowed supporters of Jean-Bertrand Aristide: death threats, statements announcing the perpetration of crimes (we will kill; we will burn people and their houses, etc.)  In order not to infringe on the freedom of the press and to encourage a dialogue among all sectors of the nation, the Government chose not to take any action against these offences, hoping that the public outcry would be enough to bring these bandits to their senses.  However, in the face of the rising violence perpetrated by avowed Aristide supporters who openly claimed responsibility for such acts, the Government had no other alternative but to use repressive measures.  The perpetrators of such terror acts are quite bold. Preliminary meetings were held just hours before the armed attacks against the population, they organized demonstrations wielding their weapons (machete, knives etc.), and high level officials of Jean-Bertrand Aristide?s regime distributed money (the most well-known case being that of a Lavalas crony who have been arrested at the Toussaint Louverture airport with a bag containing eight hundred thousand U.S. dollars ($800.000) in cash.  The Ministry of Justice will soon publish the details concerning these acts, the perpetrators and their instigators.

In many cases, the arrests made involved bandits who engaged in gunfights with the police or as a result of an investigation establishing the complicity of certain individuals in criminal acts.  The arrests were made after a warrant was issued by a government commissioner and in the strict observance of the law.

 The fight against corruption

 Corruption is the legacy left by Lavalas Government.  The interim government has taken a series of measures against this scourge by streamlining the management of public finances.  Three institutions have been created in this perspective:

 a)The Central Unit for Financial Information (UCREF);

 b)Within the Ministry of Finances, a unit to fight corruption with monitoring power over the entire civil service, notifying all cases of corruption to the appropriate authorities and ensuring that corrective measures are taken;

 c)An independent Administrative Investigating Committee composed of civil society members responsible for conducting investigations on the administrative and financial management of the Lavalas regime from 2001 to 2004.

A moral contract between the interim government and the Haitian society

The Haitian society has clearly expressed its expectations to the Interim Government, and continues to do so: the setting up of conditions conducive to credible elections in 2005 and the transfer of power in the beginning of 2006 to the winners of these elections; the fight against impunity, the upgrading of civil service, concrete measures to improve the population?s standards of living, especially the lot of the most destitute; the guarantee of individual and civil liberties. The interim government does not intend to deviate from these expectations, and all its actions must be conducted in that direction.