This is an open letter to Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller.
I would like to suggest that you have an excellent opportunity to make a monumental and lasting contribution to Haiti's development that would provide a win-win situation for Jamaica and Haiti, and be an example of visionary leadership, while establishing a legacy of regional cooperation and nation building that could serve as a template for future generations of Caribbean leaders.
Haiti, with a population of 9.8 million people of predominantly West African descent, is extremely likely to be a repository or treasure trove of outstanding sprinting talent waiting to be developed by the right set of circumstances. This is based on the hypothesis regarding the severe selection pressures by the Middle Passage, resulting in descendants of slaves in the Americas being naturally very testosterone-responsive. We had a glimpse of this talent in the person of Bruny Surin, a Haitian-born Canadian and contemporary of Jamaican-born Canadian Donovan Bailey, who is one of only 10 sprinters to have run the 100m in under 9.85 seconds.
I am suggesting that Jamaica should offer the technical assistance to Haiti to provide those right set of circumstances for the systematic identification and development of athletes through the establishment of a sustainable athletics programme not unlike the one we have in Jamaica. We have the human resources, the technical competence, the experience, and a track record of performance to make this a successful venture.
The physical plant or infrastructure can come later, and ingenious ways could be devised to overcome this early obstacle. What would be chiefly required are the political will and the goodwill and benevolence of the Jamaican people to execute this project successfully. The project's success, which in my view is virtually guaranteed in a relatively short time, would serve as a catalyst for its own sustainability. It would also serve as a source of Haitian national pride and potentially lead to increased economic activity and growth for Haiti through the upward mobility of its athletes and all the associated spin-offs. Additionally, the erstwhile virtues of hard work, discipline, perseverance and teamwork necessary for athletic success could be inculcated through such an athletics programme and spill over to other aspects of Haitian life.
If we could replicate in Haiti what we have done in Jamaica where athletics is concerned, this would have tremendous positive spin-offs for Jamaica as well. Apart from its benevolence, Jamaica could benefit in tangible ways. The increase in travel and commercial activity between the two countries, the exposure of Haitian people to Jamaican products and brands, a wider market for Jamaican goods and services, the employment of Jamaican contractors in building infrastructure, the eventual employment of our coaches and other allied staff, etc, would help to boost local economic activity and productivity and redound to the benefit of our country.
There could also be increased opportunities for our universities to study factors leading to Caribbean athletic success and aspects of Haitian life and culture, not to mention the awarding of scholarships to deserving Haitian athletes to study and train here in Jamaica.
Lecturer in Surgery (Urology), UWI