Gov't disarms striking customs officers

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (CMC) — Justice and Public Security Minister Heidi Fortune has banned Custom agents from carrying firearms “under any circumstances' as strike by the workers entered its 10th day yesterday.

“This temporary measure is adopted in order to prevent any untoward incident likely to endanger public order,” Fortune said in a statement after the National Police of Haiti (PNH) said they were taking all necessary measures to ensure the safety of the various customs posts of the republic.

Tension increased recently after Economy and Finance Minister Jude Alix Patrick Solomon is reported to have made arrangements to unload refrigerated products and products for assembly plants with the help from the PNH.

“Saturday we made arrangements to allow customs officers who want to work to do so. PNH officers occupy customs entrances to prevent untimely disruptions to those who put pressure on employees who want to work,” said Salomon.

The executive committee of the Association of Haitian Customs (ADH) Sunday dismissed a call from the finance minister to return to work, claiming that the Government had been disrespectful by not implementing the memorandum of understanding signed in October 2017 providing for salary increases and special status of customs officers.

Solomon had in a memo to the General Customs Administration AGD requested that it “takes the necessary steps to ensure that all customs agents to be at their post on Monday, 12 March 2018 at 8:00 am.

“In order to mitigate the harmful effects of this work stoppage, the AGD will take the appropriate measures to ensure that all Customs services are available on Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 March. In this sense, the AGD will have to deal, as a matter of priority, with the dossiers relating to imports of raw materials, perishable goods, as well as those intended for export.”

But the ADH said it appears that “officials have preferably appealed to armed men in the pay of some strong men of the country to proceed with the unloading of the ships” and deplored the situation where officials sought to undermine to MOU signed in 2017, “by using the CIMO and UDMO agents to prohibit the access of Customs agents to their workstations”.

But the ADH said that areas had been established within the main customs offices to allow for the clearance and delivery of medicines, antiretroviral drugs, human blood bags, aid shipments, oxygen cylinders and the bodies of nationals who died overseas.

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