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7210: This Week in Haiti 18:50 2/28/2001 (fwd)
From: "K. M. Ives" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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"Le journal qui offre une alternative"
* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
February 28 - March 6, 2001
Vol. 18, No. 50
DISPUTE OVER JUSTICE IN THE SENATE
On Wednesday, Feb. 21, a bitter fracas broke out in the Senate,
even though all the sitting senators are members of the same
party, the Lavalas Family (FL).
It began when Sen. Pierre Sonson Prince strongly criticized the
Senate’s move to grant immunity to Sen. Dany Toussaint, who has
not responded to three court summons from Claudy Gassant, the
magistrate investigating the Apr. 3 murder of radio journalist
Toussaint was summoned, not as an accused, but merely to testify.
Nonetheless, Senate leader Yvon Neptune said that Toussaint
should not respond to the summons because, according to one
interpretation of the Constitution, Senators are immune from any
action from the courts. Several senators have privately
disapproved of the Senate position, saying it made it appear that
there was something to hide. Sen. Prince’s intervention opened up
this can of worms.
“To be honest with ourselves, the question is simple but has been
posed in a complex manner,” Prince declared in the session.
“Today, we must pose this question in all its simplicity. By
using the weaknesses in the wording of our laws, we must not try
to mask the truth, which will only open our veins to the venom of
impunity. All of this is simply to say that Senator Dany
Toussaint should present himself before the investigating
magistrate Claudy Gassant.”
Sen. Prince was supported in his remarks by Senators Lans Clonès
and Gilles Gérard, who said that Prince’s position “expressed the
will of several senators to have truth shine on this odious
assassination of one of the comrades of liberty.” Sen. Toussaint
As tempers flared on the Senate floor, some popular organization
leaders in the gallery also became impassioned. René Civil of
Popular Power Youth (JPP) and Paul Raymond of the St. Jean Bosco
Chapter of the Small Church Community (TKL) exchanged words with
an aide to Sen. Prince. The aide reported to the senator that
Civil and Raymond had threatened his life. The senator then
proceeded to denounce the alleged threat on the Senate floor,
further fueling the tumult. The session finally ended when three
senators -- Lans Clonès, Yvon Feuillé and Médard Joseph – got up
and left the hall, leaving those remaining without a quorum.
Civil energetically denied threatening the life of Sen. Prince,
saying that “if he says that, then somebody has sent him to sow
confusion.” Raymond also repudiated the charge, but remained
obtusely hostile. “If there is a senator who makes a declaration
which goes against what the Haitian people have decided, it is
not for us as individuals to judge him,” Raymond said. “It is the
Haitian people, with their power to vote on May 21 and with their
ballot for which they made many sacrifices, who will be the
Sen. Clonès put the blame for the flare up on Sen. Neptune. “The
president of the senate should have recognized that he poured
gasoline on a fire that was almost extinguished,” Clonès said.
“According to Article 90 of the Penal Code, a senator is not a
major state functionary, and according to the Constitution, a
Senator should testify without any hitches before justice.”
After the fiery session, Neptune decided to close the Senate to
the press and public when the body is in session.
The next day, Sen. Toussaint made an unscheduled and unannounced
visit to Judge Gassant, offering all his cooperation in the
investigation. The judge said he was not prepared for the visit
and asked Toussaint to return the next morning.
But the informal meeting on Friday, Feb. 23 did not occur either.
The judge came to his quarters early in the morning but then
left. Toussaint never showed up. Instead he attended that morning
a meeting of Lavalas parliamentarians with President Jean-
Bertrand Aristide, the head of the party, at the Aristide
Foundation in Tabarre. The closed-door meeting was reportedly to
review and assess the Feb. 21 Senate session and lay down
principles for legislators to follow in their debates. Jonas
Petit, an FL spokesman, said the meeting resolved many issues.
“There are a number of good ways to treat questions, whether you
agree with someone or not,” he said. “This is all part of the
political education process we are undertaking in the Lavalas
Meanwhile, Sen. Toussaint wrote a letter to the Senate asking for
authorization to go before the judge. “I asked the assembly for
permission to go before the investigating magistrate so that I
can respond, testify, or collaborate, whatever form that they
want to give it,” he said. “While I am awaiting their decision, I
will abstain from sitting as a parliamentarian so as not to upset
other parliamentarians.” Toussaint says he has not yet appeared
before the judge because he does not yet have Neptune’s consent.
The Association of Haitian Journalists (AJH) praised the “Lavalo-
Lavalassian conflict,” as it was called by Radio Kiskeya. “We
welcome the declaration of Pierre Sonson Prince about the
necessity for Sen. Dany Toussaint to appear before the judge,”
said Guyler Delva, the AJH president. “There is nothing, no
attitude, right or wrong, which is justified if it impedes the
investigation. Therefore, we encourage the senators to continue
in this direction.”
Charles Suffrat, coordinator of the peasant organization Kozepèp,
also commended the dissident senators for the debate. “We hope
that the Senate lifts the blockage from the Jean Dominique
investigation, so that justice can triumph,” Suffrat said.
DOES THE OPPOSITION OPPOSE PEACE?
by Emmanuel Gracia Louis*
Most governments face political constraints in implementing their
policies. In Haiti, these constraints have become very evident
after the defeat of the opposition in last year’s elections.
Clearly, dialogue is needed to reduce divergences. It is not by
violence or brute force that the country can advance. The
Democratic Convergence also seems ready to encourage
international economic sanctions, to which Haiti is vulnerable.
What is needed, however, is for foreign countries to show
solidarity. They should contribute to the development of Haiti
and collaborate in good faith with the constitutional government.
Meanwhile, the opposition’s attempt to overthrow the regime is a
flagrant violation of the Constitution and therefore an unlawful
In a well-functioning society, political actors must at least
talk to one another, even if they don’t always agree. The
opposition must recognize the need for dialogue, and ways must be
found, if not to entirely reconcile with the constitutional
government, at least to compromise and resolve the present
conflict. The fundamental problem is a lack of cooperation.
In spite of all the government’s efforts to make peace, the
opposition stubbornly refuses to cooperate. Instead, it very
often rejects proposals without even examining them and without
condescending to say why.
The most ironic aspect of the situation is that the parties in
the Democratic Convergence have done nothing to advance the
intellectual development or economic prosperity of the country,
and yet they oppose the Lavalas Family’s efforts toward these
ends. I assume that the Lavalas Family does not believe that the
projects which it has prepared are perfect, but at least they
approximate the vital needs of the country.
Meanwhile, the opposition acts at will, without regard for law,
obliging the regime to accept its propositions. The unwillingness
of the Democratic Convergence to pursue peace and the common good
creates a problem, but not an impasse. Haiti must and will
continue on its way.
If the present authorities are devoted to their work and
sacrifice themselves to meet the needs of the Haitian people, the
people will recognize their efforts. And it will be clear to all
that the opposition is just opposing peace.
* The author is a medical student who lives in Port-au-Prince.
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