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Haitians criticise decision to demolish National Palace

CMC

Sunday, August 26, 2012 | 11:35 AM    

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Haitians are not pleased with a decision made by the Martelly administration to demolish what’s left of the iconic National Palace two years after the devastating January 2010 earthquake.

It’s reported that Hollywood actor Sean Penn, who has devoted his life to helping the impoverished, French-speaking Caribbean nation in the recovery process, said his charitable organisation, J/P HRO, has volunteered to demolish the palace at no cost to the government.

However, political blogger here, Jean-Junior Joseph said the demolition could easily be handled by Haiti’s Ministry of Public Works or the state-run Centre for National Equipment (CNE)

Fearing national backlash, former Haitian President René Préval had turned down an offer by France, Haiti’s former colonial master, to reconstruct the palace, which was built by US naval engineers during the American occupation. The architect was Georges Baussan, a Haitian who had participated in a national competition to design the palace.

“Now, a century later, the Haitian federal government lacks the dignity and even the financial and human resources to have children of the nation do even that,” Joseph said.

As the debate continued about what’s left of the National Palace, a firm based in Florida’s Broward County in the hope of winning Haitian government contracts , loaned CNE two specialized excavators to work on demolishing the National Palace, parking them in front of the mansion.

However, it is the view of some Haitians that, as a measure of national pride, Haiti should shoulder the responsibility of demolishing and rebuilding its own palace, others said Penn’s involvement simply solidifies what many believe — that the country is incapable of addressing even its most basic needs and has no other choice but to allow foreigners to lead the way.

Former Tourism Minister Patrick Delatour, who is among a handful of Haitian architects who have worked on either restorations or construction projects at the palace, said Penn is just the latest foreigner being tapped by the Martelly administration to lead Haiti’s reconstruction to the dismay of the country’s architects, engineers and contractors.

Delatour said a Dominican firm was tasked to construct a new parliament building and a Taiwanese entity is said to be involved in the construction of government ministries.

“It is a sorry state of a nation that today says the symbol of the reconstruction of the country should not be in the hands of prominent Haitian architects and engineers, who themselves have been recognized by the international community,” he told reporters.

“This particular government does not seem to have any trust or confidence in the ability of Haitian artists, professionals and institutions to steer the reconstruction of the country,” he added.

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