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17624: Lemieux: Jamaica Observer Editorial: "ambivalence towards Haiti not acceptable" (fwd)
From: JD Lemieux <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Caricom and Haiti
Friday, January 02, 2004
There is a Caribbean ambivalence towards Haiti which this
newspaper finds unfortunate, and frankly, distasteful.
For it is an attitude, particularly in the English-speaking
Caribbean, that has echoes of the house slave versus field
slave mentality or how, in the region, we sometimes treat
with poor relations. We engage them at the back-door or in
the kitchen, but they are never quite good enough to mingle
with the guests in the drawing room.
This behaviour towards Haiti, we understand, has its
genesis in a complex set of historical circumstances and
the peculiarities of colonialism and geo-political
Indeed, colonial education did not dispose the people of
ex-slave colonies to see Haiti in the context of its
historic, social and political significance as the first
black republic in the world whose independence was won 200
years ago by the defeat by a slave arm of what was then one
of the world's superpowers.
Moreover, Haiti's descent over two centuries into
instability and poverty, and its status as the Western
Hemisphere's poorest nation, fed a sense of superiority
into its neighbours.
We had hoped that this attitude towards Haiti, essentially
a mimic of the former powers, was substantially eroded, if
not totally removed, when Haiti was accepted as a member of
the Caribbean Community (Caricom) in 1997.
This is a development not to be glossed over. Caricom,
after all, is not just another club with a place for all
and sundry. At the time of Haiti's accession, Caricom was
on its way to putting in place the structures for the
creation of a single market and economy. In other words,
there was an expectation of a full integration of Haiti's
economy with the rest of the community's.
Nonetheless, two centuries after the armies of Toussaint,
Dessalines and Christophe defeated the French in an
important episode in the history of black people, Caricom
and, indeed Jamaica are showing that their embrace of Haiti
is, at best, tenuous.
Caricom, significantly, sent its least experienced prime
minister, Mr Perry Christie of The Bahamas - whose country
does not subscribe to the community's economic protocols
and is largely aloof of its emerging political arrangements
- as its official representative to the celebrations.
Significantly, too, Jamaica, whose prime minister, Mr
Patterson, holds the chairmanship of Caricom, sent only a
What can best be said about the effort is that it took
political correctness to the ridiculous.
We suspect that Caricom was timid for fear that in the
context of the political quarrels in Haiti over the
legitimacy of the government, the Opposition would accuse
the community of giving succour to the administration of
President Jean Bertrand Aristide. Mr Perry, in this regard,
was a safe bet. We expect that the similar considerations
helped to influence Mr Patterson's decision to stay away.
What is apparent is that Caricom, despite Mr Patterson's
declaration of a willingness to play honest broker, does
not have the same confidence in its relations with Haiti as
with the 'old' member states, which allowed it to intervene
in political crises in Guyana (twice) and St Vincent.
If it had that confidence, it would have made it clear to
the Haitian opposition that the bicentennial celebrations
of the achievement of black slaves was of monumental
importance to black people across the world and transcended
the immediate domestic politics.
Mr Mbeki of South Africa understood this. Unfortunately, Mr
Except for the views expressed in the columns above, the
articles published on this page do not necessarily
represent the views or opinions of the Jamaica Observer.
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