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A Letter to Jean Dominique

On Speaking Out in Haiti

by RICHARD MORSE

Dear Jean, 

I saw Michele the other day in New York after the RAM show at New York’s French Institute. She came up to me after the performance and her look of concern made me stop the conversation I was having and I headed over to her immediately. I sensed something was on her mind.

My recent criticisms of the "powers that be" in Haiti have attracted a lot of attention. I’m not sure people understand my intentions when I make these observations. My family, as you can understand, is concerned because they don’t want me to alienate the UN or the US government. They are also concerned for our safety because traditionally, people who criticize the Haitian Government or the Haitian Elite often get killed.

Your life-ending drama is the perfect example of this. Your words, Jean, carried weight. Your words were noble and the people you were defending were in need of someone like you. By the same token, there has been no justice since your assassination. No one has been sent to jail and there’s been no "trial of the century" down here. Michele tried to carry on at the radio station but there was an attempt on her life, and she has wisely moved on to other, some might say "greater", things. 

We had an "election" situation here in Haiti a couple of weeks ago in which people who didn’t vote were said to have voted. My concern is that the eight or ten million Haitians who witnessed the event will lose complete confidence in the people who are here to administrate Haiti’s situation. This will lead to chaos. Chaos is the last thing we need right now. 

The last time I saw you and President Preval in the same room, President Preval told us all that you were his personal political counsellor. Shortly afterwards you told me privately that you wanted to have a political interview with me. Unfortunately as things turned out, we never had that political conversation. A month or two later, you were taken down. 

Since that time, I dedicated a song called "Justice" to you but this is the first time I’ve tried to reach out to you. I don’t feel I’m in the position to say all that needs to be said. I can say a few things but there are so many issues to tackle. 

If you could somehow try and reach your old friend Ti Rene, as his friend and political counselor, and see if you can’t some how help him out of this difficult situation, I would be most grateful to you. I don’t want to get into more detail but I’m sure you’re aware of what’s going on here in Haiti. Try and get him back on track. These next weeks, months even, will be very critical to the reputation of the Haitian Government and to the United Nations’ efforts in Haiti, and I would love it if everyone could come out of this difficult period in time looking and smelling like roses. It’s not going to be easy considering these last few weeks. 

I recently had a conversation with the Haitian American industrialist Andy Apaid and he was trying to convince me that all his lobbying efforts in Washington haven’t helped him politically or economically. We talked for about two hours. As he left, he couldn’t help himself and he told me, "you have my number; call me if you have any nightmares". I think the "nightmare " comment is his way of telling me to keep quiet. 

I’m used to the threats but nevertheless perhaps I should lower my political analysis profile. I am just a musician and Innkeeper after all. 

Our band (RAM) just came back from two wonderful shows in New York and next week, we’re off to Paris to perform at La Villette.

I think of you more often than you can imagine. Please stay involved. 

Your friend, 

Richard 

(Jean Dominique was killed on April 3, 2000 a few yards from his radio station in Port-au-prince Haiti. His assassins have never been brought to  justice. His wife, Michele Montas, tried to keep Radio Haiti Inter on the  airwaves but a Christmas day assassination attempt on her life convinced  her it was time to leave Haiti. She is now spokesperson for the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon.)

RICHARD MORSE runs the Oloffson Hotel Port-au-Prince Haiti and the leads the Haitian band RAM.