Bahamian-Haitian Relation’s Cordial
By Gladstone Thurston
Bahamas Information Services
Kingston, Jamaica - Relations between the Bahamas and Haiti remains very cordial, Ambassador Dr Eugene Neury said.
He insisted there were no anti-Bahamas or Caricom demonstration outside the Bahamas’ embassy following last week’s meeting with Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti.
Dr Neury also denied reports that Haitians were unhappy that the Bahamas and Caricom were “interfering” in their internal political affairs.
“On the contrary,” said Dr Neury, “the average Haitian is happy that people care enough for them to (mediate a settlement to the political impasse that has threatened to send Haiti into civil war).”
Dr Neury was a member of Prime Minister Perry Christie’s delegation to the third in a series of talks aimed at saving the fledgling Haitian democracy.
Also from the Bahamas were Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell, Education Minister and Attorney General Alfred Sears, Ministry of Foreign Affairs undersecretary Carlton Wright.
Five Caricom prime ministers, and representatives from the United States, Canada, the OAS, the European Commission, and the European Presidency hammered out a series of political reforms with President Aristide during their meeting at Jamaica House in Kingston on Saturday.
Dr Neury said Haitians “love the fact that people are paying attention to try to help them get out of this predicament. They feel that this is what neighbours do. A friend in need is a friend indeed.”
Following the third meeting - the first in Nassau and the second in Haiti – “there are good reasons to look with optimism to the future,” said Dr Neury.
“If the president can achieve the things that he has committed himself to then I think the whole region, especially the Bahamas, will benefit.”
Haitians admire the Bahamas as a successful neighbour “very much,” he said
“The average Haitian does not want to come to the Bahamas,” Dr Neury added. “That’s a Bahamian perception. However, the Haitians would like for their country to be like the Bahamas in terms of the economic success.
“Most Haitians in Haiti have a very serious perception of the integration of their brothers and sisters in the Bahamas. The presence of Haitians in the Bahamas has economically helped the Haitian population back home.
“It is very much like when the people in the days of the project in the United States sent money back home to the Bahamas. Haitians send back literally hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars from the Bahamas to Haiti every year.
“But that’s earned money. It isn’t as though they went there and took the money. So Haitians admire the Bahamas. It is wrong to think it any other way.”
Dr Neury described Bahamians as “a very accommodating people. In percentage terms, the Bahamas probably more than any other country in the world has successfully integrated thousands of Haitians and their families without any bloodshed and without any violence.”
Dr Neury said the gathering of thousands of Haitians on the park opposite the Bahamas’ embassy in Haiti had nothing to do with any ill-will towards either the Bahamas or Caricom as was earlier reported.
“There was no confrontation,” he insisted. “I was at the embassy.”
He denied that his vehicle was jostled by the angry crowd.
“My car never stopped for one moment and in fact the leaders from the opposition groups opened the way for my car,” said Dr Neury. “There was some misinterpretation of what people were seeing.
“It is insulting to suggest that the people from the opposition were not aware that the Bahamas’ embassy including its gate is a foreign country and that to attack a foreign embassy is to attack the country which that embassy represents.”
Except for Haiti, no other country stands to benefit more from these negotiations than the Bahamas. After three meeting Dr Neury was asked for a prognosis.
“This is the first time that any international group has been able, on such a sustained even short period of time, to achieve what has been achieved in the last two weeks, and the whole international community benefits from this.”
But, unless the opposition in Haiti accepts the reforms including the release of political prisoners and police protection for opposition demonstrations, and compromise on its insistence that President Aristide steps down, then there will be no movement.
“You have to understand the Haitian mentality of bargaining,” said Dr Neury. “Haitians are masters at bargaining.”
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