Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by this author are their own and do not represent the official position of the Barbados Today.
by David Comissiong
Haiti was one of the most urgent issues dealt with by the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) at their February 24 to 25 Heads of Government Conference. And at the conclusion of the Conference, the CARICOM Prime Ministers and Presidents issued the following statement on the crisis situation in Haiti :-
“Heads of Government expressed their deep concern over the deteriorating political situation and the deepening public anxiety over citizen security in Haiti.
They took note of the Report of the United Nations Secretary General of 11 February 2021 and of the comments therein on the political and governance issues.
Heads of Government underlined the importance of respect for the rule of law and constitutional processes as laid out in the CARICOM Charter of Civil Society, and the primary responsibility of the government to this end.
They called on the political actors to engage in dialogue to reach consensus on the way forward and establish an enabling environment for the conduct, as quickly as possible, of the elections to renew the lapsed Legislative and Local Government Institutions.
Heads of Government look forward to the conduct of free and fair Presidential Elections, in accordance with the Constitution of Haiti.”
In addition, our CARICOM Heads of Government mandated Ambassador Colin Granderson of the CARICOM Secretariat to urgently establish a small expert group to inquire into the situation on the ground in Haiti and to give a Report on its findings to the Heads of Government.
Of course, this CARICOM expression of “deep concern” comes against the following background :
1. The dissolution of Haiti’s Parliament since January 2020, and – in the absence of any Parliamentary oversight – the President ruling this Caribbean country of 11 million people by issuing Presidential decrees;
2. The 7th of February 2021 3 a.m. arrest of Supreme Court Justice Yvickel Dabresil and Police Inspector General Marie Louise Gauthier;
3. The 10th February 2021 Court order, that determined that Justice Dabresil’s arrest was illegal and that ordered the Judge’s release;
4. The 8th February 2021 Presidential decree that removed three Judges from the Supreme Court, and the installing of three replacement Judges;
5. The 8th of February 2021 police seizure of control of the Supreme Court and the Ecole de la Magistrature;
6. The police use of live ammunition against protestors;
7. The documentation by Haitian human rights organizations, the United Nations and the Haitian Judicial Police of the involvement of state actors in a series of massacres in various Haitian communities;
8. The untenable situation of a country of 11 million people only having 11 elected leaders in office;
9. The use of Presidential decrees to implement substantial governmental changes, inclusive of the creation of a National Intelligence Agency, and the establishing of a unilateral process directed towards creating a new Constitution of the country.
10. The ongoing controversy over whether – under the Constitution of Haiti – President Moise’s term of office ends in 2021 (as Opposition forces claim) or in 2022 (as the President claims).
For some time now, the question has been raised as to whether CARICOM’s Charter of Civil Society could be utilised to facilitate CARICOM to make a positive and helpful intervention in or contribution towards resolving the crisis situation in Haiti.
And so, it is very encouraging to see that our CARICOM Heads of Government have prominently referenced the Charter in their Statement on Haiti.
The Charter of Civil Society was prepared by an Inter-Governmental Task Force of the Community (under the Chairmanship of the Secretary General), and, back in 1997, the CARICOM Heads of Government passed a Resolution at their Eighth Inter-Sessional Meeting adopting the Charter and agreeing to “pay due regard to its principles”.
The Heads also expressed their determination to “pursue the principles declared in the Charter in response to the challenges of the Twenty-first Century”.
Numerous principles expressed in the Charter are directly relevant to the crisis situation that currently exists in Haiti, particularly those that relate to adherence to democratic political practices and rights; the right of the people to engage in public meetings and demonstrations; maintenance of the principles and practices of good governance; respect for the independence and impartiality of the Judiciary; and adherence to the right of the people and the various social partners to be consulted and to participate in national decision making.
In light of the foregoing, it seems clear that an objective and impartial application of the CARICOM Charter of Civil Society to the situation in Haiti would be extremely useful in providing a way out of the untenable impasse that currently exists and in helping to resolve the crisis situation, and no doubt, Ambassador Granderson’s expert fact finding group will bear this in mind.
And so, it is now over to the CARICOM fact-finding team to do its work quickly and urgently, so that not only would CARICOM be provided with greater insight into the crisis in Haiti, but our premier regional organisation would be enabled to help craft a sensible and effective way out of an existential crisis that is imperiling the lives and livelihoods of millions of CARICOM citizens.
David Comissiong is Barbados’ Ambassador to Caricom.