PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) – The Trinidad and Tobago Parliament Friday approved a motion extending economic sanctions against Haiti in keeping with a United Nations resolution, and dismissing opposition claims that Port of Spain and other Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries have done nothing to ease the situation in the French speaking Caricom country.
Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Reginald Armour, said under the existing Economic Sanctions Act, Trinidad and Tobago is keeping with its mandate to take economic measures against a foreign state or various actors.
The motion notes that there is extremely grave concern about the high level of gang violence and other criminal activities including kidnappings, trafficking in persons and the smuggling of migrants and homicides and sexual and gender based violence we well as the implications of Haiti’s situation for the region.
It also makes provisions for the transmissions of arms to non-state actors in the French-speaking country “engaged in or supporting gang violence”.
The motion states that the situation in Haiti continues to constitute a threat to international peace and security in the region. It said that Trinidad and Tobago, a member of the United Nations and by virtue of its international obligations to prevent and prohibit illicit financial flows, trafficking and diversion or arms and related material needs to adhere to the UN Security resolution on Haiti.
The resolution requires member states to impose economic sanctions against entities and individuals and that Port of Spain must take measures to ensure compliance.
He told legislators that the President had signed the order against Haiti in June this year and debated and approved by legislators.
He said the measure unless revoked would remain in force for three months and the motion on Friday seeks to have it extended indefinitely by a resolution supported by a simple majority in the Parliament.
But the opposition spokesman on foreign affairs, Rodney Charles said Trinidad and Tobago should have followed the practice of countries like Canada and the United States that brought regulations to put the UN sanctions into effect since November and December last year.
“Their regulations required no extensions,” he said, adding “however in Trinidad nd Tobago, under the Economic Sanctions Act, we have to come before this House multiple times to do the same thing”.
“Why not just amend the Economic Sanctions Act so that we do not have to return to this House time and time again to do the same thing? That is how first world countries operate Madam Speaker.”
In his contribution, Charles said Venezuelan nationals coming to Trinidad and Tobago for years have had access to registration procedures, work permits and are being fully integrated into the local society.
“That is a welcomed humane approach Soon their children will be in our schools. And we are not complaining, we are happy that we can help our Venezuelan brothers and sisters in their time of crisis.
“But what about our Haitians cousins? Madam Speaker Haitian citizens must obtain visas before entry in Trinidad and Tobago,” he said, adding “we are treating citizens of a non-Caricom country, that is. Venezuelans better than we are treating fellow Caricom citizens of Haiti.
“Caricom is not doing well by Haiti. And we on this side say individually and collectively: Haiti, I am sorry,” Charles said.
But the Attorney general, in brushing aside Charles’ remarks, saying “remarkably he allowed himself in my view to trivalise the fact that we have come to this House to renew the Order which has already been passed by this House and to renew it for an indefinite period.
“He has attempted to trivalise in terms in which I think quite frankly does a disservice to the people of Haiti,” Armour said, noting that the fact that the matter has been brought to the Parliament “is because we care about the people of Haiti.
“So asking the members on the other side to debate the passage of the Order….is not to waste the time of the House” he said, adding “given the injury which the people of Haiti have suffered for hundreds of years and in the face of the current Caricom initiatives which are underway it is psychological PTSD to claim that by us asking the people of this country, in this House through their elected representatives to commit to this resolution is to do psychological injury to the people of Haiti.
Armour also dismissed opposition concerns regarding the visa requirement for Haitians, saying “the fact of the matter is that both Haitians and Venezuelans are required to have visas to enter this country.
“So there is no question of discrimination and the rationale for requiring visas is part of the very security that we have to ensure that we put in place (and) that’s one of the reasons why we are here today, so that the trafficking of person, the movement of persons into and out of Trinidad can be addressed from a security point of view by the requisite visa scutiny that is engaged when someone wishes to travel into this country.”
Armour also defended the role being played by Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley, who has lead responsibility for security within the quasi Caricom Cabinet.
He said Caricom has appointed an Eminent Persons Group headed by former St. Lucia prime minister Dr Kenny Anthony and including his two former colleagues from the Bahamas and Jamaica, and also welcomed Kenya’s decision to lead a multi-national force into Haiti.
“Trinidad and Tobago remains committed to this process and the point is that Eminent Persons Group….put together by other current leaders of Caricom, led by Dr Rowley with his responsibility for security within the Caricom quasi Cabinet.
“They are as we speak, working with the people of Haiti to help Haitian stakeholders resolve their political impasse. It is a delicate careful process that has to be engaged in with resolve, with will and quietly.
“Not to be shouted for sound byte purposes from rooftops and empty barrels,” Armour added.