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.
March 9, 2012