For interested readers of the forum, an interesting article to read:
Trinidad & Tobago Express
May 19th 2004
Caricom's challenge to OAS on Haiti
by Rickey Singh
THE Caribbean Community's determination to find out the truth about the circumstances surrounding the sudden departure from office of Haitian President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, on February 29, has reached the Permanent Council of the Organisation of American States(OAS).A fierce debate is now expected Friday on Caricom's request for a Special Session of the OAS Permanent Council to address the Haitian crisis with the specific intention of invoking Article 20 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter on constitutional governance and the democratic order.
Having altered course from seeking to involve the United Nations in sponsoring a probe into Aristide's departure from office-amid
credible reports he was ousted from power by a Washington-led initiative- Caricom has moved to engage the OAS within the framework of Article 20 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. One day after the letter urging this involvement by the OAS, the United States Ambassador to the hemispheric grouping, John Maisto, went public with an appeal for Caricom to withdraw its request. It was insensitive of the American ambassador to have done so. He would have known of Caricom's lingering deep disappointment with the anoeuvrings, led by Washington and including France, that had
succeeded in frustrating the Community's initiative for a peaceful resolution to the crisis while Aristide was still in office.
But insensitivity to initiatives even in support of constitutional
governance and the democratic order-which is at the core of the Caricom request-is a quality that can easily surface from those accustomed to displaying the arrogance of superpower politics. Current Caricom chairman, Prime Minister Ba
ldwin Spencer of Antigua and Barbuda, lost no time in reaffirming the Community's determination to press ahead for the OAS to meet and take action on the general assessment of democracy in Haiti that would include the circumstances of Aristide's departure from power.
Spencer, the Community's newest head of government, had presided over the recent meeting of the Caricom Bureau in St John's at which it was agreed to involve the OAS in assessing the situation in Haiti in the context of Article 20 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.
On May 13, a letter on behalf of Caricom, signed by the Foreign
Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Harold Lovell, was delivered to the current chairman of the OAS Permanent Council, ambassador Miguel Ruiz Cabanas of Mexico. The following day, US ambassador Maisto, was reported as calling on Caricom to withdraw its request.
Caricom ambassadors have since informed their respective
governments of Friday's special session of the OAS Permanent
to consider the Community's request.
Article 20 of the Democratic Charter states: "In the event of an
unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional regime that
seriously impairs the democratic order in a member state, any member state or the OAS Secretary General may request the immediate convocation of the Permanent Council to undertake a collective assessment of the situation and to take such decisions as it deems appropriate...."
The Permanent Council, in its own judgment, could exercise such diplomatic initiatives that are designed to foster the restoration of democracy. If the initiatives fail, the Council is obliged to speedily convene a Special Session of the OAS General Assembly.
The USA, France and their allies who had influenced an emergency session of the UN Security Council to rush troops to Haiti on the very day Aristide lost power in the face of an armed rebellion, remain in an official denial mode that he was ousted from power. Unless proven otherwise by an indepe
ndent investigation, the prevailing view is that there was an "unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional regime" when Aristide was flown into exile on an American military aircraft.
Aristide, soon to leave Jamaica for further temporary exile, now in South Africa, maintains he was forcibly removed from office.
If he is lying and the USA and France are telling the truth, then an independent international assessment, such as that being sought by Caricom of the OAS, in the wider context of constitutional governance and the democratic order, should prove most helpful. On the other hand, if Washington is fearful of the findings of any such enquiry, then it may wish to continue to exert behind-the-scenes pressures on some Caricom and Latin American governments to prevent any action on Caricom's initiative.
The OAS General Assembly- principal organ of the hemispheric body-is scheduled to meet in Quito, Ecuador, from June 6-8. Friday's special session of the Permanent Council as requeste
d by Caricom, could be very decisive for further appropriate action. Traditionally, the OAS Permanent Council and General Assembly strive to reach decisions by consensus. However, given its deep concern about the "dangerous implications" the circumstances of the removal of the Aristide presidency could have for constitutional governance in the hemisphere, Caricom may be prepared to call for a vote in support of its request for action under Article 20 of the Democratic Charter.
Caricom's challenge in putting the OAS to the test on the provisions of the Charter comes ahead of this year's General Assembly meeting scheduled for Quito next month at which Costa Rica's former president, Miguel Angel Rodriguez, is expected to be endorsed as the new OAS General Secretary to succeed the outgoing Cesar Gaviria, who is completing two consecutive terms.
It is simply not reasonable to expect Caricom to back off from its initiative to ascertain the truth on the sudden termination of the Aristide presidenc
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