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Date: Fri, 5 Feb 1999 14:42:19 -0800 (PST)
From: Robert Corbett <bcorbett@netcom.com>
Subject: President René Préval's Address to the Nation on February 2, 1999
To: Bob Corbett <bcorbett@netcom.com>
Message-ID: <Pine.3.89.9902051443.A23049-0100000@netcom12>

President René Préval's Address to the Nation on February 2, 1999

From: Max Blanchet <MaxBlanchet@worldnet.att.net>,
Center for International Policy, 2 February 1999

(unoffical translation)

The last time I spoke with you, on January 11, 1999, you know what happened to my sister, Marie-Claude and her driver, Jean Versailles. Jean is dead. Marie-Claude was seriously injured. On behalf of Jean's family, I thank all of you for your condolences, and on behalf of my own family, I thank you all for your support. Thank you very much.

On January 11th, I said that we recognized that the term of some of the Parliamentarians was finished. Some of you were in shock. Many citizens of good faith did not understand and were afraid of a return to dictatorship. So, it was my duty, and it was imperative, to give them an explanation and assure them that we are not going back to dictatorship, but we are moving forward in our democracy. We are building democracy. The fight for democracy under dictatorship is not the same as the fight for democracy within a democratic system. The fight for democracy under dictatorship does not require anyone to respect the law, because the dictatorship system is already against the law. But the fight for democracy within a democratic system requires, above all, respect for the law.

People, I did not invent the date of the second Monday of January. It is contained within the Constitution of our nation. If you have a copy of the Constitution, go to Article 92.1. This article states, "Deputies start working the second Monday of January." It does not say that Deputies start working in October, the way it happened with the 46th Legislature. The Constitution states in Article 130, "When a Legislature starts late, it is considered that it was already in progress and it will finish at the normal term of the Legislature." The second Monday of January, 1999 also is not my invention. It is contained within the electoral decree of 1995. These dates are not coming out of my head! The fight for democracy in a democratic government, is first, to respect the law.

When the mandate of the 45th Legislature was finished on the second Monday of January 1995, that Legislature had to leave. That was why from January 1995 to October 1995, there were only nine (9) Senators in place. At that time no one said it was a problem. I think it was a good thing that the 45th Legislature left when their term was over. We respected the Constitution and the law. It does not make any sense to respect the Constitution in 1995 and not respect it in 1999.

What is more dangerous? To violate the Constitution or go for a few months like how it happened in 1995 with a non-functioning Parliament. I truly believe that the more dangerous is to violate the Constitution. We can fill the institutional gap with elections -- but we don't know where violating the Constitution will take us.

What is so dangerous about not respecting the Constitution and the law in this case? We would need to be afraid of a President who has the majority of the chamber and could extend the mandate of the Parliamentarians. That could have been done under the pretext that there have been no elections. What would happen then? They could then say that President Preval did it in 1999. If we extend their mandate, we would be opening the path to dictatorship. I don't want to be judged by history as an accomplice who extended the mandate. Extending the mandate would equal a coup d'etat.

Some people might be thinking while I'm speaking that such things cannot happen in Haiti. Who would of thought that after Duvalier left in 1986 -- which was so great -- that we would remain for so long under a military regime. Who would of thought that after Jean-Claude left in 1986, that we would have three coup d'états: In November 1987, leading to a de-facto government, the coup d'etat of Roger Lafontant on January 7, 1991. The coup d'état by Cédras on September 30th, 1991 which led to many de-facto governments for a period of three years.

I'm talking with people in good faith. I want to tell them that I'm doing everything in good faith. I understand that everybody is aware it's a guarantee for democracy. I give them my guarantee that my duty and my conviction is to respect the Constitution. That is the guarantee to continue building democracy.

THE PROCESS . . . We are taking our time to continue to sit and discuss with everybody in order to put together a credible electoral council. But we will not take too much longer.

These are the requirements for good elections: a climate of confidence and calm, as well as:

  1. Put together an electoral council which is credible, non-partisan, and created by consensus.
  2. We must also create the Electoral Review Council composed of members of those political parties participating in the elections.
  3. We ask for International Observers for the elections.
  4. We need to have national electoral observers from our civil society.