Haiti: The Senate Vs President Martelly

In Port-au-Prince, Haiti, two wrongs make a right.  Yesterday, amidst the usual rumor ridden atmosphere, that has characterized Haitian politics for a long time, President Martelly announced a press conference for 4pm.  He would be accompanied, we were told, by members of the Diplomatic Corp, among them, possibly the American ambassador to Haiti and the Papal Nuncio.  The purpose of this was to, once in for all, bring light to the controversies around the president’s alleged dual citizenship.  Shortly before, three senators, Buissereth, Lambert and Latortue, now die-hard fans of President Martelly, earned their own little place in the spotlight by announcing that they had resigned from the Senate Committee in charge of the investigation.  In his interview, Senator Lambert predicted a “kouri” (creole word for panic) in the hours that followed.  Needless to say that, after the small earthquake of the previous night, the population with nerves already weakened indeed fell prey to the “panic” and in a matter of seconds the capital had been turned into a state of uncontrollable frenzy.  It appears that reason and logic continue to evade us as a society and we still desperately await the leadership that will bring on real change.

If the accusations of Senator Moise Jean-Charles provoked a senate investigation, the way   it was handled is at best embarrassing.  The committee did not proceed with professionalism, gave in to propaganda, casually accepted any evidence, did not distance itself from manipulation nor did it denounce the attempt to bring into this prestigious body a falsified document.  As a result, many were inclined to dismissing these allegations; others still wanted the president to end the folly and to put all questions to rest.  That press conference could have been a God sent, though a little late, would have still been welcomed by those who have Haiti’s interests at heart and who are eager to see all branches of Government really hard at work to bring about much-needed change.

The substance that was missing from the Senate investigation, should have come from the Presidency.  Instead, we were graced yesterday, circa 4:30pm, with a performance the likes of which can easily be seen, on any given, day in a Broadway production.  President Martelly, with the Prime Minister nominee on his right, his former Minister of Interior on his left and surrounded by members of the “Religion pour la Paix” (Religion for Peace), put on a show.  He flashed a total of eight (8) Haitian passports as proof of his citizenship and informed that on May 2nd 2011, he had returned his American Green Card in exchange for a tourist visa.  The shock came when the American ambassador, Mr. Kenneth Merten, stood up to proclaim before the press and the world that Michel Joseph Martelly was a Haitian citizen.  We understand that Haiti is under UN occupation, we get it; and although President Martelly claims that the ambassadors are there to “help and assist” Haiti, we know that representatives of the international community are there to serve and protect the interests of the countries they represent.  But we digress; if President Martelly wanted to put this matter to rest, why did he not use a Haitian institution to do so?  What is the role of the Haitian Office of Immigration?  Why couldn’t the director of that said entity, vouch before the Senate with supporting documents in hand that Mr. Michel Joseph Martelly was indeed a Haitian citizen who had never renounced his Haitian citizenship?  Mr. Kenneth Merten is only able to speak on behalf of American citizens, he does not have the legal authority to declare anyone a Haitian citizen.

By involving the American Ambassador to Haiti, President Martelly is contributing to weakening the very institutions he has sworn to protect and he is declaring before the world that the institutions of his own country are not good enough; in so doing, he has set a very dangerous precedent.  President Martelly took his oath of office before the Senate, obtained ratification of Dr. Gary Conille from that body and is hoping that his actual Prime Minister nominee receive approval from that same institution.  However, he has so very little respect for them that he did not deem it necessary to submit to them the documents that would establish his Haitian citizenship.  He chose to give a performance made in Hollywood and publicly made a mockery of a procedure that should have been handled with the utmost level of professionalism.

Now the Haitian citizenry awaits.  We are all eager to hear from the Senate Committee in charge of the investigation.  They found that three members of the cabinet indeed are foreign nationals and their names were released to the press.  Today, they owe us an explanation in the case of the alleged dual citizenship of the Haitian President.  They will certainly owe us an apology for having proceeded with such maladdress.  They and President Martelly, after all, have to answer to those who have voted them into office; that is, if we hope to ever build this democracy in the name of which we commit such blunders.

Haiti is a minor child, abandoned by his parents, who now is the ward of the international community with the United States of America as the powerful Godfather.  For those who ever doubted, yesterday’s play was designed to dispel the ambiguity.  If those who have sworn to uphold the Law have no respect for it, how can we ever hope to move from dysfunctionality to functionality and eventually to efficiency?  We do not pretend to have the answer to this conundrum; but, it is evident that as a society we desperately lack the drive, the motivation, the commitment and the will to initiate gradual change toward building a just and law-abiding society.  We hope one day for a new generation of Haitian men and women who will have the level of education necessary for the implementation of the democratic process and who will have the foresight to elect in office those men and women who will have the very delicate task of protecting all democratic ideals.  Today we have before us a classical case of a dream deferred but never lost.  Haiti will survive.

Cassandra Honorat

March 9, 2012

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Haiti: A Case of Irresponsible Leadership

Nationality:

When Senator Moise Jean-Charles told the press that President Martelly was not a Haitian citizen, a gasp of astonishment could have been heard from Haitians everywhere.  What! The president is allegedly holding multiple nationalities, reportedly Italian and American.  Now, coming from Senator Jean-Charles, accusations are no surprises.  He’s accused the current administration of careless spending, violations of Human Rights and even of secretly plotting the creation of a Militia called the “Milice Rose”.  He feels this is his job as a member of the opposition to contribute to destabilizing the current administration by every means necessary.  It is clear that he has a very limited understanding of what the Opposition should do.

A couple of weeks after the allegations of the senator, the Senate convened a formal meeting at the end of which a committee was formed and an investigation ordered.  We could only conclude that the Senate, in all its Majesty, had enough substantial evidence to warrant an investigation that would not stop at the head of state but would reach deep into the many folds of his Cabinet, or so we thought.  A passport bearing a photograph of President Martelly was submitted and has been circulating on the net.  A letter was released by the US Embassy in Port-au-Prince: “the passport presented has nothing to do with President Martelly and the embassy will never release any personal information on US citizens (what!); this would be a violation of privacy laws”.  It was later reported that the said passport may belong to a Haitian-American woman who had lost her documents in 2010 while visiting Haiti during which trip she and her husband had been the victims of kidnapping.

In the meantime, in the midst of the “investigation”, the Haitian Office of Immigration decided to set archived files on fire.  Among the burned victims, a countless number of boarding cards, filled by all persons en route to Haiti.  On it, pertinent information such as length of stay, purpose of visit and (oh yes!) nationality.  The director of Immigration who was heard in the Senate claimed that every 3 years such “old and useless” documents had to be burned and the incineration usually took place before two Justices of the Peace who, we assume, write a report.

If the Senate wants to retain a shred of dignity, if its distinguished members want to display the level of leadership this country needs, they should dismiss this case for lack of evidence or they should produce, and fast, credible evidence to back the accusations.  For now, we retain the right to classify this investigation as bogus and a waste of valuable time and energy that need to be spent in a more productive manner.

The Audit:

Dr. Gary Conille, now former Prime Minister of Haiti, took office about 5 months ago and resigned on Monday February the 20th.  One of his major undertaking during his short administration was to set in motion a series of reforms and new measures that would in time be instrumental in strengthening the State by promoting much-needed transparency and accountability.  What could be wrong with that? In a country where the status quo is constantly at war with progress and the rule of law, Dr. Conille’s agenda may have angered more than one.  He ordered an audit of the administration of his predecessor Jean-Max Bellerive who is allegedly a current adviser to President Martelly.  Reportedly, contracts were signed with extremely lenient terms and conditions for the Dominican companies, and to the detriment of Haiti.  Furthermore, some claim that kickbacks from these deals were used to finance President Martelly’s campaign.  Oh boy!

For further details please refer to the following article: http://www.prlog.org/11807971-scandal-and-corruption-threatens-political-stability-on-both-sides-of-haiti.html (article in English)

The Prime Minister:

Today, Haiti is plunged in yet another crisis.  It has become a system.  Another Prime Minister has to be chosen by President Martelly and approved by Parliament.  The Constitution stipulates that if there is no party holding majority in Parliament, the president after consulting the Presidents of both Chambers chooses a Prime Minister.  Contrary to Constitutional provisions, President Martelly submitted three names to the attention of Parliament. He has since chosen among the three names his Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Laurent Lamothe.

In the meantime, Senator Wesner Polycarpe has submitted a project to the Senate.  If adopted, the Senate will cease all forms of consulting and dialogue with the president until he bends to the following demands:

1-  The president must truly commit to respecting the Constitution of 1987

2- Disarm and prosecute all paramilitary groups

3- Publish the electoral calendar

4- Publish and promulgate the most recent constitutional amendments

oh yes, last but not least

5- Provide all clarification concerning certain obscure points in contracts awarded by the administration of Jean-Max Bellerive and brought to light by the audit ordered by former Prime Minister Conille.

For further details please refer to the following article http://www.lenouvelliste.com/article.php?PubID=1&ArticleID=102947&PubDate=2012-02-29  (article in French)

Some have argued, and I am one of them, that President Martelly should have long ago stopped the madness surrounding his alleged dual citizenship.  After all, to display responsible leadership is to avoid unnecessary conflicts and to offer, when needed, top-notch leadership skills to resolve ASAP any issues that may  potentially destabilize the state.  A lesson President Martelly has yet to learn.  He is willfully contentious,  has shown  disrespect for the rule of law and has a penchant for propaganda.  That being said, it doesn’t mean that the last 8 months in office have been a total waste.  No, not at all.  Hundreds of families victims of the 2010 earthquake have been relocated, some even got new houses and are now proud home owners in a country where access to credit is denied to most.  This is certainly a step in the right direction.  Furthermore, President Martelly has made it a point to meet former Haitian heads of state who, for the first time in our history, find themselves all living in Haiti.  It is an important gesture of good faith toward a possible national reconciliation if we are ever to have one.

Eight months in office, it would be safe to say that all is not lost for the current administration.  But certain important adjustments have to be made if the remainder of their term in office is to be an improvement of the last months. All hope that the current administration has yet the ability to muster up the courage to put Haiti first and ahead of their own petty interests.  Some remain optimist, most are tired of waiting and continue to be frustrated and discouraged with governments that can never deliver.  President Martelly’s campaign slogan of choice was “change”.  We are still waiting for this Haiti they claim is “open for business”.  The lack of support shown to Dr. Conille on his quest for accountability and transparency, denotes a propensity for “business as usual”.  As I hum the very enthralling tune “dekole” (take-off), that was the musical theme for the 2012 Carnaval, one cannot help but come to the sad realisation that Haiti’s take-off is not for tomorrow.

Cassandra Honorat

March 1st 2012