Don't abandon Haiti, diplomat urges Caricom

Don't abandon Haiti, diplomat urges Caricom

Saturday, October 19, 2019

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ST JOHN'S, Antigua (CMC) – Antigua and Barbuda's ambassador to the Organisation of American States (OAS), Sir Ronald Sanders is urging the 15-member Caribbean Community (Caricom) grouping not to abandon Haiti, where opposition forces are demanding the resignation of President Jovenel Mose.

“Haiti is in turmoil again. This time the countries of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) cannot be criticised for inaction, but questions must be asked about others in the hemispheric community who have been silent about the political and humanitarian situation in the country,” Sir Ronald wrote in his weekly column.

He said apart from “an unusually vague statement” issued by OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, earlier this week, the hemispheric body “which has been active in other countries has been conspicuously silent”.

On Monday, Caricom said it was “deeply concerned” over the protracted political crisis in Haiti, saying it is still awaiting a response from the French-speaking member country for a good offices prime ministerial delegation to visit.

Caricom chairman and St Lucia Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, Jamaica's Prime Minister Andrew Holness, and The Bahamas Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis had been mandated by regional leaders at their summit in St Lucia in July this year to undertake the visit. However, the plans to visit Haiti have been placed on hold as the situation worsened.

Opposition parties in Haiti have accused Moise of embezzlement, but the head of state has defended himself against the report of the Superior Court of Accounts and Administrative Litigation (CSA/CA) into programmes and projects funded by the PetroCaribe, an oil alliance of many Caribbean states with Venezuela to purchase oil on conditions of preferential payment.

The report found that significant shortcomings have been associated with the planning and implementation of development programmes and projects funded by the PetroCaribe fund.

The Caricom Secretariat said that it had taken note of the series of demonstrations throughout the country, calling for President Mose to step down, as well as the outbreaks of looting, vandalism and violence which have led to casualties. On several occasions the demonstrations have paralysed the country for days. The crisis has led to a deteriorating social, economic and humanitarian situation.

The secretariat noted that despite the community's principled position of non-interference in the internal affairs of states, member states or third states, the regional leaders had received a report on the situation from the head of the Haitian delegation during their summit in Castries.

Sir Ronald said President Jovenel Mose has been unable to establish a stable government, and that persons whom he has named to the posts of prime minister and ministers have been roundly rejected by the Senate, whose approval of their appointments is necessary.

He also noted that while Mose had “made his usual cameo appearance” at the Caricom summit in St Lucia, he left before the business of the meeting took place, leaving the Foreign Minister Bocchit Edmond with the responsibility to explain the situation in Haiti.

But Sir Ronald noted that when the regional leaders expressed a desire to send the three-man prime ministerial team “to inform the community of the situation in that country”, the Haitian foreign minister attempted to dissuade them, contending, incorrectly, that the OAS had already sent a team to Haiti and, since Caricom countries are members of the OAS, Caricom had no need to send a team of its own.

“Of course, the truth is that no authorised OAS team has been sent to Haiti since 2015. The team to which Foreign Minister Edmond referred was a self-appointed visit by the US Ambassador to the OAS Carlos Trujillo, as the outgoing chairman of the OAS Permanent Council.”

Sir Ronald said that the American diplomat announced to a working group at the OAS, on a subject that had nothing to do with Haiti, that he was accepting an invitation from Edmond to visit Haiti.

“To date, no official invitation has ever been seen by the Permanent Council of the OAS and that council – the only body with the power to do so – has never authorised Ambassador Trujillo's visit.”

But Sir Ronald said that in any event, Caricom leaders were insistent that a visit should be made and the Caricom secretary general was instructed to write to President Mose indicating their wish to send a prime ministerial team to explore steps that could be taken, including mediation, to help resolve the political impasse and the civil disturbances.

“To date, Mose has not responded, even though Haiti is a member state of Caricom with binding obligations to the organisation,” Sir Ronald said, noting that Chastanet has since said that Caricom is deeply concerned over the protracted political crisis in Haiti and is awaiting the country's imprimatur for a good offices prime ministerial delegation to visit.

“To be clear, Caricom countries, acting as a group, adhere to a strict policy of non-interference and non-intervention in the internal affairs of states, as set out in the Charters of the United Nations and the OAS. Therefore, Caricom heads were careful to seek the agreement of President Mose to accept a visit by three of his colleagues.

“Their objective was to serve the best interests of Haiti, including by engaging members of the Senate, political parties, non-governmental organisations, and the private sector. In the absence of any response by President Moise to their request to visit Haiti, Caricom heads clearly must assume that they would be unwelcome. This has implications for Haiti's membership of the community, and, in time, that should be a matter for review by Caricom governments.”

Sir Ronald said that in the meantime, the situation in Haiti has worsened.

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