Haiti president says he will soon start process for new PM

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

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PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti (CMC) — President Jovenel Moise says he will soon begin the process of selecting a new prime minister for the French-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country even as Prime Minister Jean-Henry Céant says he does not recognise the decision to force him out of office on Monday, following an overwhelming vote in the Lower Chamber of Deputies.

“I inform you that I will begin consultations with the Parliament as soon as possible on the selection of a new Prime Minister, in accordance with Article 137 of the 1987 Constitution as amended,” Moise wrote in a letter to the to the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Gary Bodeau.

Céant and his 21-member cabinet will remain in office as caretakers until a new prime minister is named.

Under Haitian law, a caretaker prime minister and government can only oversee the country's day-to-day affairs, and cannot enter into any new contracts.

Céant, a lawyer had replaced Jack Guy Lafontant, as prime minister six months ago following a series of street demonstrations over fuel increases.

But in recent weeks, President Moise has been under pressure from opposition parties to step down over his handling of domestic affairs as well as the use of funds under the PetroCaribe an oil alliance of many Caribbean states with Venezuela to purchase oil on conditions of preferential payment.

In his letter, President Moise acknowledged receiving the information regarding “the decision of the Chamber of Deputies who dismissed Prime Minister Jean Henry Céant following a motion of censure voted by the Assembly of Deputies with 93 votes “for”, six “against” and three “abstentions”.

But Prime Minister Céant, who was not present when the vote was taken on Monday, has refused to accept the position insisting that he is still heading a government in office.

He has described the vote as “illegal and unconstitutional” saying it goes against the Republican and parliamentary traditions, given that he was in the Senate and had informed the President of the Chamber of Deputies of his unavailability.

The Senate, citing the recent arrest of five armed Americans last month and their subsequent release with the help of the State Department, had summoned both Céant and his justice minister to its chamber on Monday.

Senate President Carl Murat Cantave later tweeted that due to the lack of a quorum, the prime minister's session is being rescheduled for Wednesday.

Céant said that he will be present Wednesday in the Senate, and that he has been discussing with his team, the appropriate response to give the Chamber of Deputies.

Several Senators including Youri Latortue, said they still regard Céant as prime minister and that the Senate takes precedence in this matter.

Several other legislators, including Sinal Bertrand, Printemps Bélizaire and Baudelaire Noelsaint have denounced the vote of censure against Prime Minister Céant, which they described as illegal.

Last month, CARICOM leaders at their inter-sessional summit in St Kitts-Nevis expressed “deep concern about the situation prevailing in Haiti during the past three weeks characterised by violent protests jeopardising the political, economic and social stability of the country.

“Heads of Government call upon all stakeholders to prioritise dialogue as a means to address peacefully and meaningfully all relevant issues and to create the conditions for lasting political stability essential to the sustainable economic and social development of Haiti.”

The Guyana-based CARICOM Secretariat is expected to issue a statement later on Tuesday on the latest developments in Haiti.

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