Today marks the fifth anniversary of Jean Dominique's assassination. The authors of this crime are still at large. On this occasion, I want to reprint here the words that I wrote five years ago, on April 7, 2000 -- recalling the influence of a man who was truly larger than life. Peace, Jeando!
[quote]The Silencing of a Haitian Voice for Democracy
Guy S. Antoine
April 7, 2000You could say that the assassination of Jean L. Dominique was in a way much like the assassination of American icons such as Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. It should not have been surprising, but indeed it surprised us. And, years from now, we'll remember where we were when we first heard the news. Its impact was a devastating blow. A blow against Hope. But our Hope is resilient and will survive this trauma. After all, the Haitian Revolution did not end with the arrest of its greatest exponent, Toussaint Louverture, who fought and gave his life for the autonomous French colony of Saint Domingue; who died because he aspired to more than just a taste of sovereignty and self-determination.
In less than two years, the legacy of Toussaint translated itself to the birth of the independent Nation of Haiti, which unfortunately still struggles today to be autonomous and sovereign, yearning for individual liberties and the security of its citizens, and free from the dictates of the American State Department, the American Embassy in Haiti, or would-be powerbrokers in the American Senate; desperately searching for a way to create a New Democracy, the Haitian way, one that will make sense to the majority of Haitians. Many will continue to misread the will of the Haitian people to live in a democracy which is not at all synonymous with the notion of a weak government, a democracy which is not a carbon copy or even a curious mélange of democratic forms of government in the United States, France, and elsewhere. What the Haitian people want is a distinctly Haitian form of government, in which their voices will be heard and responded to. To this day, Jean-Bertrand Aristide is their man. To beat Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a political opponent will essentially have to outdo Jean-Bertrand Aristide in his identification with the people and his espousing the aspirations of the people, articulating them as his own. So far, no one has come close to his level.
Criticize or blame Aristide all you want, wear the imperial clothes of American or Parliamentary Democracy, make imperious and intemperate demands that elections be held regardless of local exigencies, withhold millions of dollars in foreign aid to Haiti, and what will you have accomplished in the end? In Haiti, we still do not play baseball.
Do not read into these lines the argumentation of a partisan. I am simply an observer. I, personally, have nothing to gain with Jean-Bertrand Aristide becoming once more the President of Haiti. But I do know this: the people of Haiti want him back, because he best represents their aspirations. No number of politically motivated assassinations, no amount of "magouilles", no amount of posturing by those who hold the strings of Foreign Aid, no amount of punishing big-brother type political pressures, can ever be successful long-term in thwarting the resolve of the Haitian people.
My message to the so-called "opposition" in Haiti is this: Listen to the people. Engage them in a dialogue. Define yourself with new ideas, pro-people and pro-development, and not simply in opposition to JBA. Convince them that you have their interest at heart, and are not simply involved in the murderous political game of who will sit in the Presidential Chair. Please convince them... I wish you good luck, but as far as I can see, you work has not even started. Better get to it.
My message to the American Government: Enough with the Helmsian politics. Enough with the hypocrisy. You have the right to defend your interests in Haiti, like any other nation would, but stop trying to impose yourself so. Our own interests do come first, and you cannot continually tell us what is good for us. You should try for a change to listen when we tell you what we think is good for us. Stop trying to spank us at each and every turn. Your politics have not worked in Cuba in 40 years, and Haiti is even more resistant. We need a Haitian President, not an American one. Work with us, we have welcomed you with open arms in the past. But you have maintained your superior distance, and you wonder why it is so that we have not embraced you. Please understand that we are culturally and ideologically different: you may trample on our sovereignty, but we can never surrender it to you. In fact, you are not rich enough. We are so used to being poor that your billions of dollars are just a fantasy to us. They do not speak to us. Come down to our level, and show us that you are willing to be on the side of our emancipation. If you cannot do that, then at least leave us alone. Do not lengthen the odds because regardless, we will overcome them one day, and be successful. On which side will you be then? Understand that we still may not play baseball.
Jean Dominique's death and cowardly assassination will long be remembered. Like Toussaint's, Jean's dream of a New Day in Haiti will come into being, because this event has had the opposite effect sought by many in Haiti's "morally repugnant elite": to make him shut up, once and for all. Sometimes, the voice from beyond the grave speaks more loudly than the one coming from the airwaves, as inspiring as it was to some, and as irritating it may have been to others. Fasten your seat belt! The roller coaster has only reached its zenith.
Jean Dominique, like few others, represented a symbol to our people. A symbol for the right to speak one's mind, not just the freedom of the press. Above all, a symbol of integrity in an age when there is precious little of that. In Haiti, most of our politicians want nothing short of becoming President someday, or to ascend to the privileges of membership in the powerful inner circle. Time and time again, they have demonstrated that they would sell their souls to the devil to make it happen. The interests of the people they are supposed to represent rarely come into play. They rarely even speak their language.
But the people of Haiti are not as dumb as those politicians assume they are. They have a power of discernment that goes beyond, way beyond simplistic notions of class and color politics. They registered forcefully their displeasure over the assassination of one of "theirs", though he himself was a member of the intellectual and economic elite. Frivolous notions that they were mandated to act in this way or that way will continue to rain down on us. State Department spokespersons and Senator Jesse Helms will continue to blame Jean-Bertrand Aristide at each and every turn, threatening to tighten the purse. The political "opposition"
in Haiti will have a field day with insinuations and purposefully damaging speculation. But at the end of the day, what will they have accomplished?
The people of Haiti know better. Yes, they too want free and fair elections. They too want democracy. They too want a strong and constitutional government. After the Duvalier experience and the military regimes, they are staunchly anti-autocratic, they do want a strong government but they want a voice in that government, one that speaks to their aspirations, and one that is not hampered by endless paralyzing "democracy style" maneuvers.
Most definitely there is a dignified role for the opposition parties in Haiti, but paralyzing the government should never be a choice, simply because Haiti cannot afford it. The Haitian people deserve an end to this brand of political narcissism and undue influence from Uncle Sam. Do bring on the elections, but make sure that everyone can freely and fairly participate, and let the best men and women win!
Beyond elections, we need to repair the Justice system in Haiti, that currently does not have even one leg to stand on. To do so would constitute the best tribute to the life of Jean Leopold Dominique. [/quote]
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