August 6, 2004
SVG at odds with Consular Corps

by Nelson A. King
in New York

With relations between the Caribbean Community (Caricom) and the U.S.-backed Gerard Latortue’s interim government in Haiti still strained, St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ New York Consul General has expressed discomfort participating in Consular Corps discussions with his Haitian counterpart. {{more}}
Cosmus Cozier, a former parliamentarian, said that he is bewildered that most of his Caricom Consular Corps colleagues have apparently embraced new Haitian New York Consul General Felix Augustin, while Caricom is yet to fully recognize his (Augustin) appointed government.
“It’s very delicate,” the Vincentian consul general said in an exclusive interview, exuding displeasure over Augustin’s surprise attendance at a recent Consular Corps meeting.
“You can’t have Caricom saying one thing and others (Consular Corps) here saying another,” he added. “If Caricom decides on one thing, I feel when we go back to our [respective] countries, we should adhere to the Caricom agreement.”
Cozier said that while he is fully in support of Caricom solidarity, the Consular Corps should not be sending the wrong message to Haiti.
“It puts me in a very uncomfortable situation to sit in the same meeting with him [Augustin],” he said. “You can’t be giving mixed signals. If I know he’s going to meet with the group, I will not go because I have to follow the instructions of my government.”
In adopting a hard-line stance, the Dr. Ralph Gonsalves-led administration in St. Vincent and the Grenadines has made it clear that unless there is fundamental democratic changes in Haiti, his government will not recognize the Latortue regime.
“Those who want to compromise, let them compromise,” Dr. Gonsalves said bluntly a day before the Caricom leaders’ recent retreat in Grenada to discuss the Haitian issue.
And he remained recalcitrant after the closed-door meeting, stating that the environment still remains the same following President Jean Bertrand Aristide’s February 29 ouster.
“I haven’t seen any progress by Latortue’s administration,” he said. “The position of the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, unless I can be convinced otherwise, is that the heads [of Caricom states] or group of heads can go and meet Latortue. The heads can go, but they will not be representing me.
“Latortue was installed by the Americans,” he added. “You don’t have democracy in Haiti today.”
St. Lucia was equally uncompromising on Haiti, with Prime Minister Kenny Anthony stating that his administration is not in accord with “the imposition of governments.
“We understand there will be constitutional breakdowns from time to time,” he said, “but that does not mean there should ever be any unlawful usurpation of democracy.”
Guyana is also standing firm with St. Vincent and the Grenadines and St. Lucia. At their Grenada summit, Caricom leaders, however, agreed on five key principles.
These comprise an inclusive political process; equal commitment of the Haitian authorities in the pursuit of all known criminals; no persecution or arbitrary treatment of political opponents; institution of appropriate election machinery; and free, fair and transparent elections.
The conduct of fresh general elections in “an expectable time frame” and under the auspices of the international community, including Caricom, was also stressed as part of the pre-conditions.
The leaders also agreed to dispatch a five-member delegation of foreign ministers on a fact-finding tour to Haiti, headed by Barbados’ Foreign Affairs Minister and former Deputy Prime Minister Dame Billie Miller.
After the early July meeting with Latortue and President Boniface Alexandre, the foreign ministers from Barbados, the Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Antigua and Barbuda described the talks as “positive and encouraging”.
The foreign ministers of Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago and other officials then met on July 28, with selected Caricom leaders in Grenada, announcing that Caricom will make public, on August 16, whether to resume full diplomatic relations with Haiti.
“We have reached some conclusion on those recommendations, and we will be formulating our position to pass on to the heads [of government] for their endorsement,” Caricom Secretary General Edwin Carrington was quoted as saying after the closed-door session with Prime Ministers Dr. Keith Mitchell of Grenada, Baldwin Spencer of Antigua and Barbuda, and Suriname’s President Ronald Venetiaan.
Caricom had balked at U.S. pressure to restore diplomatic relations with Haiti amid widespread reports that Aristide was kidnapped in a coup d’etat by the United States.
Cozier said that he would gladly sit with his Haitian counterpart once Caricom agrees to normalize relations with Haiti.
“But, at the present time, it will be inappropriate to do otherwise,” he affirmed, maintaining that he will honour the wishes of his prime minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Louis Straker, who is also deputy prime minister.
Cozier said that while he has quietly expressed uneasiness over the presence of Augustin at Consular Corps meetings, St. Lucia’s Vice-Consul Christine Bartlett-Josie has been more vociferous.
“She indicated, in the presence of the Haitian consul general, in a Caricom Consular Corps meeting, that she was advised by her foreign ministry not to recognize him,” he said.
Bartlett-Josie was on vacation and, therefore, could not be reached for comment, but Hubert Emmanuel, the Deputy Consul General, said that he is cognizant of his government’s position.
He, however, stated he would be willing to sit with Augustin: “I have no problem with that. I might not contribute to anything with Haiti, but I can sit. If we’re having our usual meeting, I don’t see any conflict.”
While Augustin did not return repeated calls for comment, St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace decried Dr. Gonsalves’ policy on Haiti, stating that parting company with some CARICOM member states is “fundamentally flawed.
“Moreover, the ULP [incumbent Unity Labour Party] stance over the shortening of the mandate of the Aristide government by rebellious elements is certainly inconsistent when one recalls the manner in which the ULP, in opposition, moved to shorten the life of a duly-elected [New Democratic Party] government in our country four years ago,” the former prime minister said.
“The NDP certainly does not approve the removal of any government by any unconstitutional means or by any armed rebellion,” he added. “However, it was Caricom that invited the United Nations to respond to the cries of Haiti when hundreds were losing their lives in our region by armed conflict.”