Editorial

Sleeping giant US awakens on Dominican Republic

Tuesday, December 24, 2013    

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WE note that the United States has finally broken its silence to express concern about the iniquitous decision of the Dominican Republic's Constitutional Court that will affect thousands of people of Haitian descent living in that neighbouring country.

According to Ms Marie Harf, the US Department of State's deputy spokeswoman, Washington has urged the Government of the Dominican Republic "to continue close consultation with international partners and civil society to identify and expeditiously address, in a humane way, concerns regarding the planned scope and reach to affected persons".

It took Washington a bit of time, but at least the world's most powerful democracy has made it known to Santo Domingo that what now obtains is unjust and untenable.

For those who may have missed it, the Constitutional Court ruled on September 23 in favour of stripping citizenship from children of Haitian migrants. The decision applies to those born after 1929 -- a category that overwhelmingly includes descendants of Haitians who were taken into the Dominican Republic to work on farms.

The decision has been condemned by the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights, Amnesty International, the Catholic Church in Jamaica, former Jamaican Prime Minister P J Patterson and Dr Ralph Gonsalves, the prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, who has been the most consistent voice on this issue for months.

In fact, it was most embarrassing that Mr Gonsalves' colleague Caricom heads of government sat by for just over two months before outrightly condemning the Dominican Republic for this most egregious decision.

Since then, it appears that the Dominican Republic's President Danilo Medina has developed a bit of a conscience and has agreed to establish, with Haiti, a joint commission to discuss the migration problem caused by the ruling.

Venezuela, the United Nations, the European Union and Caricom, we are told, have been invited to these discussions as observers.

We hope that good sense will prevail at these talks and that President Medina and his team will see the logic in seeking a reversal of the court ruling.

For what is at stake here is the fundamental human right of the people affected by this ruling, as well as the international reputation of the Dominican Republic.

If, however, President Medina and his team remain stubborn, we again strongly advocate that Caricom acts on the recommendations made by Dr Gonsalves last month -- suspend the Dominican Republic from Cariforum and from the PetroCaribe arrangement initiated by Venezuela.

We also reiterate our suggestion that the European Union, which spares no effort in condemning human rights violations in the developing world, should be lobbied by Caricom to increase international pressure on the Dominican Republic. Trade blockades are usually very powerful measures.

The Dominican Republic owes it to the rest of the human family not to let it come to this.

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