With Haiti disintegrating into an ungovernable and failed State, I wondered when the world would take serious notice and at least do something to save the country before it went to a final hell. But, as they say, better late than never.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness has announced the Government's willingness to participate in initiatives aimed at stabilising the country. He has pledged Jamaica as a potential host to any diplomatic initiatives that will be engaged to deliberate on ways in which this stabilisation can be achieved, along with military personnel as necessary to help in any intervention.
All of this is good and should be welcomed by any well-thinking person who wishes the Haitian people a better future. It is fruitless, if not imprudent, for anyone at this time to hold Haiti in derision for the sad state into which it has fallen. It is true that its bona fides for failure have been well established. It has been ruled by factionalism and leaders who have only sought to enrich themselves at the expense of the poor and vulnerable. The resources of the country have been plundered to satisfy the elites of Haitian society.
The gangs that now hold sway have been able to do so by exploiting the weak security infrastructure in the country, not to mention the rampant corruption that permeates every level of society. Haiti, like Somalia, is a perfect poster child for what happens in a country when there is a breakdown of the rule of law and where grievous vulnerabilities in one's security apparatus are easily open to exploitation. It is very difficult to establish that Haiti has ever had any decent Government that really cared about the destiny of the Haitian people since it threw off slavery under Toussaint L'Overture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines.
But the existential crisis that the country faces is not one that the world can continue to ignore. We in Jamaica must be especially conscious of the need to bring peace, stability, and prosperity to Haiti. Our maritime border lies only 190 miles from Haiti's southern peninsula, and there is a robust drugs-for-guns activity that takes place between the two countries. We know that this proximity has exacerbated our crime problem, especially gun-related crimes. We should be aware that any mass migration from Haiti by sea, as a result of serious upheaval in that country, will certainly end up on our shores. Will we be able to accommodate this horde?
So, quite apart from us having a vested interest in Haiti's security, enlightened self-interest dictates that we protect ourselves. I listened to an interview between former head of the Jamaica Defence Force Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin on Nationwide News Network radio. He made the perceptive analogy of Haiti burning and its neighbours being ignited by flying sparks. The analogy is spot on. The implications of Haiti on fire should be unmistakable for us, Jamaica, so we should be robust in our participation in any initiative to help.
It is reassuring that his Majesty's loyal Opposition has signed on as well.
The naysayers who think that Jamaica should first deal with its problems before helping Haiti are abysmal and naÃ¯ve in their assumptions and should be ignored. This is one of those times when we have to chew gum and walk at the same time.
This column wishes the initiative well and prays that it will not become another example of announcements on steroids.
THE CAR SEAT DEBACLE
The new legislation to govern the use of our roads is now operational, but it has hit a snag. The issue concerns the use of the child restraint system by taxis and other public passenger vehicles (PPV). The operators of these vehicles have rightly cited the impracticability of using seat restrains in their vehicles. Interestingly, as far back as 2001 there was provision in the law for this system, but like so many other creatures of legislation in Jamaica, it was never enforced. Now we are faced with this dilemma.
It is important that the Government listens to their cries and moves to re-examine this clause in the new legislation. They must do so with urgency, whether by ministerial order or by adjusting the clause in the present legislation. For the sake of our children and anxious parents, the matter is impatient of redress.
Car seat restraints for minors under 12 years old is a necessary part of any attempt to keep our children safe as they are driven on the road. Parents who own vehicles and transport their young ones know almost instinctively what they have to do to protect their loved ones. They do not need to be lectured or legislated to, to do what must be done. Parents and guardians who ignore this time-honoured practicality have lived to regret the death of their young ones. Let us act on this with dispatch.
Dr Raulston Nembhard is a priest, social commentator, and author of the books Finding Peace in the Midst of Life's Storm; Your Self-esteem Guide to a Better Life; and Beyond Petulance: Republican Politics and the Future of America. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or email@example.com.
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