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Posted: Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Newsday Editorial

The decision of CARICOM not to be part of any move to remove Haitian President, Jean Bertrand Aristide, from office, is in keeping with Independent Trinidad and Tobago's long declared policy of non interference in the affairs of other countries, and a departure from CARICOM's support in 1983 of United States military intervention in Grenada to overthrow the then regime. And CARICOM, in keeping with this new policy position, has declared, according to Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister, Patrick Manning, that in addition to not being part of any arrangement to perpetuate a coup in Haiti it would not send a peace-keeping force to the embattled nation unless it was specifically requested to by the Aristide Government.

In turn, Manning has indicated that CARICOM would not recognise any Haitian Government which came to power via a coup. CARICOM's carefully couched position, relayed to the Media here by Prime Minister Manning, while it may have been designed to discourage any military intervention in Haiti by the Bush Administration in the United States of America, was a complete reversal of its 1983 stance on Grenada. Then, only Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, the Bahamas and Belize had taken the route of non interference in Grenada's internal affairs. It was a policy that this country had followed since Independence. It had been rigidly applied, not only in 1983, but earlier in 1979, when Maurice Bishop and his New Jewel Movement had overthrown the constitutionally elected Grenada Government of Prime Minister Eric Gairy, as well as when TT refused in 1975 to allow for the refuelling of Cuban military planes ferrying Cuban troops to intervene in Angola's civil war.

Haiti has been traumatised by a clearly orchestrated coup attempt aimed at overthrowing the constitutionally elected Aristide Government. Gangs of rebels have clashed both with Haiti's Protective Services and supporters of President Jean Bertrand Aristide in an attempt to destabilise the country and oust the elected Government. Those opposed to Aristide have been reported as having taken over several towns in an armed uprising, and the question arises: From where and whom did the rebels obtain their weapons? CARICOM acted appropriately in refusing to support a coup attempt in Haiti, all within the overall context of its new policy position of non interference in the internal affairs of an Independent country.

In addition, embattled Haiti is a Member State of CARICOM and any intervention by the regional organisation would have meant the second time in its 30-year history that it would have allowed itself to be coerced by a foreign power to do so. And while we regret the problems with which Haiti is faced, in which thousands of its citizens have been inconvenienced through the subversive actions by persons opposed to Aristide, nonetheless we feel that Haiti should be allowed to solve its problems without the added trauma of outside military intervention.

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