NASSAU, The Bahamas – The cost of detaining and repatriating illegal Haitian immigrants has placed significant strain on the Bahamian economy. The Bahamas Government is hoping that this burden would be reduced once it is determined that elections held in Haiti on February 7, 2006, were free and fair.
“This is of importance to The Bahamas. It suggests that Haiti is on the road of trying to stabilize its political and economic development. This can only work to the benefit of The Bahamas,” said Prime Minister the Rt Hon Perry Christie.
Prime Minister Christie held a press conference held Saturday, February 10, at Nassau International Airport VIP Lounge, upon his return from the 17th Inter-sessional Meeting of Caricom Heads of Government held February 9-10 in Port of Spain, Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
At the meeting, the Caricom leaders accepted a recommendation by Prime Minister Christie that Haiti be re-instated into the Councils of Caricom, once it is determined that elections were democratic.
Focus of the conclave, as far as The Bahamas is concerned, was the arrangements for the restoration of Haiti to the Councils of Caricom. Following the departure of President Jean Bertrand Aristide under questionable circumstances in February, 2004, Haiti, the first black republic in the Western Hemisphere, was suspended from the Councils of Caricom.
“It now appears that there has been a successful, free and fair election in Haiti,” the Prime Minister said. “This means that on March 20th at the inauguration of the new president, and provided the election is pronounced free and fair by the electoral observers, including the Caricom observers, then Haiti will be invited immediately to resume its seat at the table with us.”
The Prime Minister said fair elections with an outright winner, is very good news for Haiti and The Bahamas.
“We believe, and always believed, that we would have been vindicated in the position we took as a country and as a region in dealing with then the Aristide Government and towards bringing about fair elections in Haiti, because we knew then as we know now that it’s only with fair elections and a Government fully supported by the people of Haiti that real progress in improving the economy of Haiti would take place,” Mr. Christie said.
Substantial funds have been allocated for Haiti, pending improvement of the institutional tenets of democracy and Haiti being able to promote the economy of Haiti.
“All of that means stabilizing the movement of people out of Haiti to The Bahamas. Clearly that’s long term goal and clearly The Bahamas must not relax in its vigilance and its capacity to interdict people coming in because in the immediate future, we expect the law and the attractiveness of the economy of The Bahamas and that of Florida to continue to attract people looking for a better way of life,” the Prime Minister said.
He said that Caricom has accepted his recommendation that they “move with speed to normalize relations with Haiti, once observers signify the elections were fair, that Haiti would come back into the Councils of Caricom and be at the table with Caricom and work out the relationships that would be good for both The Bahamas and for Haiti.”
At the Trinidad meeting, the Prime Minister said he also commended President Bharrat Jagdeo of Guyana for his country’s “generous gift” of $50,000 to the Bahamas for victims of last year’s Hurricane Wilma.
“When one considers that Guyana itself has suffered over the past two year’s significant damage to its economy from natural disasters, this is an even more extraordinary gift,” Mr. Christie said.