dimanche 21 février 2010

Toward a New Haitian State

The ruins of Haiti's National Palace. (Getty Images)

The disastrous earthquake provides an opportunity to create a more democratic Haiti with a strong government.

By Robert Fatton Jr. (*)
Source: theroot.com, February 9, 2010 at 6:35 AM

The devastating earthquake that has destroyed Haiti’s capital has aggravated the already catastrophic economic and political conditions of the country’s history. As a Haitian put it: “Tout ayiti krazé”—the whole country is no more. Beyond the utter terror, pain and loss that is overtaking the population, and the horrifying cries for help from under piles of rubble, the country is in ruin.

While it is hard not to be overwhelmed by the hellish pictures of lifeless bodies—young and old—Haitians and all people of goodwill must immediately contribute to the country’s rebuilding lest famine, disease and chaos set in. Despite their strong sense of nationalism, Haitians will have to accept the reality that at this time only the international community, and the United States in particular, that has the means to rescue the country from catastrophe. The government is an empty shell, the United Nations virtually decapitated, and local non-governmental organizations basically impotent.

Once the relief phase has ended, however, American military forces should withdraw, and be replaced by a civilian supra-national body that would cooperate with Haitian authorities to devise and implement a comprehensive program of reconstruction. This program should reverse more than 40 years of economic neo-liberalism and emphasize massive public works for infrastructural development, agricultural transformation and food self-sufficiency.

The fundamental goals should be to create employment for the vast majority of Haitians, alleviate poverty and bridge the obscene divide between the small privileged minority and the poor majority. This requires a credible and legitimate government that can speak in the name of the population. This is essential because the earthquake has violently aborted the legislative and presidential elections that were going to take place this year and that are unlikely to be rescheduled anytime soon. Extending the life of the current Parliament and Préval’s presidency beyond their constitutional term will not do. The “invisibility” of the current regime in the aftermath of the earthquake cannot be rewarded by a self-mandated reappointment until Haitians have an opportunity to go to the ballot boxes.

New Forms of Representation

In the interregnum, Haitians have to devise a way to express their collective voices in this exceptional moment of emergency. They have to create a new form of representation to elaborate a consensus on new national vision for reconstructing their country. Whether this should be an États Généraux de la Nation—a National Conference—or a provisional government of National Unity, or a distinct body, it is imperative that grassroots organizations, and all sectors of society as well as all political parties have a voice in defining a strategy of reconstruction.

While this may be an unruly process, it can’t be avoided. There’s the danger that reconstruction will reproduce the old and failed strategies of the past. Moreover, if the existing government and Parliament decide to “go it alone,” they are inviting destructive rounds of political recriminations and instability. Reconstruction cannot be the business of a self-appointed minority. It is an historical opportunity to include the “moun en deyo”—the marginalized—in the making of a new and responsible Haitian state. Letting this opportunity pass will further aggravate the extreme social polarization and of the traditional zero-sum politics that have characterized Haiti’s history.

Haiti’s tragic predicament portends the danger of a Hobbesian war of all against all, but it can also be an opportunity to create a new and more democratic society in which all Haitians treat each other as equal citizens. In fact, the earthquake has become the cruelest equalizer; while it is clear that the small, well-off minority will extricate itself more easily from this crisis than the poor majority, death and devastation are affecting all, irrespective of class or color.

In the midst of this cataclysm, Haitians could acquire a new sense of solidarity and citizenship to supplant the zero-sum game politics that have characterized the country’s history. Facing disaster, Haitians may finally understand that a better future requires the demise of the old ways of governing and producing. A more inclusive social pact between the privileged few and the poor majority could rise from the ghastly dust of the earthquake.

An International Hand

If Haiti is to extricate itself from its past predicament, it will need the massive help of the international community. But once the rescue and relief operations are done and once the immediate shock has subsided, the international community will have to change its traditional methods of assistance. It will have to concentrate its resources on helping Haitians build a coherent and functioning state. Such a strategy entails both facilitating the development of an effective public bureaucracy and channeling most foreign assistance through governmental institutions.

For the past 30 years, because of fears of corruption, donors have bypassed the state and emphasized NGO-led development; the results of this experience have been quite meager, and it is time to change course. It is true that state corruption is a problem, but this reality should not hide the fact that only a very limited amount of foreign assistance ends up in governmental hands. As Martha Mendoza of the Associated Press has reported: “Less than a penny of each dollar the U.S. is spending on earthquake relief in Haiti is going in the form of cash to the Haitian government. Corruption is not limited to public authorities; private agents, and NGOs themselves are not immune to it. Haitians know well that NGOs have become “big business” and that the economic elites have resisted paying taxes and engaged in illicit activities. It is therefore time for Haitians to call on the foreign community to use this moment of reconstruction to help them expand state capacity and create a competent public service. For instance, the rebuilding of the capital city, whether in its current site or elsewhere, should be an opportunity to create governmental cadres of urban planners and engineers. The objective is therefore the building of state capacity instead of continuing to favor the development of what is known in Haiti as “La République des ONGs,” the NGO Republic.

More than 10,000 NGOs have been doing “development work” for the past three or four decades. They have been the privileged partner of international financial institutions channeling assistance to the country. While they may be well meaning, they are not the engine that will generate self-sustained growth in Haiti. Uncoordinated among themselves and having no national coherence, they are a palliative agent in the struggle against poverty.

Instead of pumping more of its resources into NGOs, the international community must shift its priorities and concentrate on helping Haitians build durable state institutions. While the earthquake had cataclysmic consequences for the Port-au-Prince area and the southern town of Jacmel, it left the rest of the country relatively unscathed but strikingly incapable of offering any relief to the capital. The utter lack of a national emergency system even after the devastating hurricanes of two years ago symbolizes the absence of a responsible state. In fact, government officials have tended to abdicate their responsibilities to NGOs and the United Nations; not surprisingly, Interior Minister Paul Antoine Bien-Aimé confessed that it was the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) that had “traditionally coordinated relief efforts.”

Neo-Liberalism’s Consequences

The emasculation of the state is no accident, however; it is partly the consequence of the neo-liberal regime implanted in the country by the major international financial institutions (IFIs). By advocating the withdrawal of the state from its social and regulating obligations, and by promoting the supremacy of the market, this regime has contributed to an economic, political and social disaster. The emasculated state has left the population unprotected from the harsh realities of poverty, unemployment and the vagaries of nature. Moreover, the international agencies’ economic plans stressing the development of export-oriented urban enclaves dependent on ultra cheap labor have contributed to the utter neglect of agricultural production as well as the inevitable population exodus to the cities. Port-au-Prince, built for 250,000 people, has now about 3 million inhabitants most living in poverty and squalor. In the medium and long term, the international community should promote an alternative model based on the protection and reinvigoration of domestic production that satisfies basic needs, a model that privileges the development of the rural areas.

The earthquake has accelerated this process by generating a reverse exodus; masses of Port-au-Princians are now marching back to their villages to escape from the disaster. This spontaneous evacuation is an opportunity to create the necessary incentives and infrastructure for permanent and viable settlements of productive peasants. Such a strategy would stop obscene class and regional inequalities from increasing and provide a sense of national cohesion.

It is difficult, however, to contemplate an increase in domestic food production without a major policy shift from the neo-liberal regime imposed on Haiti by the major international financial institutions. Indeed, the collapse of domestic food production—particularly rice—can be traced back to the policies of trade liberalization introduced in the mid-1980s and 1990s under the guidance of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. These policies have resulted in a massive reliance on imported food and the complete neglect of the rural agricultural sector. In fact, in 2006/07 the entire budget of the Haitian Ministry of Agriculture was a measly $1.5 million, a figure that contrasts sharply with the $69 million spent on the UN World Food Program. Instead of reconstructing its rural sector and promoting domestic food production, Haiti has remained a country of malnourished and hungry people alarmingly dependent on external assistance and charity.

A Role for the State

If Haiti is to avoid an unending dependence on the international community for its very survival, it must place the state at the center of any strategy of reconstruction. The state plays a fundamental role in organizing social life and is the cornerstone of public as well as private production. What Haiti requires is not nation-building, but state-building. Only the state can provide collective protection and create the conditions for self-sustaining growth. Development assistance can no longer bypass the state; while the fear of corruption is real, it cannot paralyze the necessary effort to revitalize state capacity.

The creation of a new and responsible state does not imply massive centralization nor the crushing of spontaneous forms of citizens’ organizations, but rather harnessing this spontaneity and giving it the coherence and means to succeed. In fact, the state must nurture and institutionalize the peaceful resilience and dignified strength that the overwhelming majority of the population has shown throughout this catastrophe. This behavior in the face of utter adversity is a hopeful sign that Haitians can learn to live in solidarity and that the extreme divide across class, color and gender can be bridged. This task, however, requires a responsible state with the capacity to generate more equitable life chances, more civil relationships among citizens and more stable politics. While such a state cannot emerge from “mid-air,” it can begin to crystallize from novel forms of representation born out of the exceptional necessities of reconstruction. If a viable, accountable state were to materialize, the earthquake’s senseless destruction may in fact become the cruel birth pangs of a new and resilient Haiti.
(*) Robert Fatton Jr. is the Julia Cooper Professor of Politics and Associate Dean for graduate programs at the University of Virginia. He was born and raised in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and is the author of several books, including Haiti’s Predatory Republic: The Unending Transition to Democracy and The Roots of Haitian Despotism.

vendredi 19 février 2010

Haiti - after-earthquake/ Haiti premier says government will appropriate land to build tent camps for quake victims

Source:mjtimes.sk.ca, Published on February 19th, 2010

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive says the Haitian government will appropriate privately held land to build temporary camps for earthquake victims.

Bellerive told The Associated Press in an interview that the government owns some land but not enough, meaning he has no choice but to take over private terrain.

He would not say how much terrain will be taken over.

Haitian law provides for such takeovers as long as they are in the public interest and the owners are fairly compensated, said lawyer Benissoit Jude Detournel, who handles property disputes.

"There has to be a just and equitable indemnity, taking into account the market value of the property," Detournel said. He added that setting a price is difficult now in the quake's aftermath.

The government has appropriated land in the past without conflict - to build a wider road on the western outskirts of Port-au-Prince four years ago, to protect underground water aquifers 14 years ago and to construct government buildings in downtown Port-au-Prince in the 1970s, according to Jean-Andre Victor, an agronomist who worked on a failed government attempt to survey land ownership in 2003.

Now, international aid groups say hundreds of hectares (acres) are needed to get quake victims out of overcrowded makeshift camps in public parks and lots in Port-au-Prince. Officials say 1.2 million Haitians were left homeless by the Jan. 12 quake, about half of them in the capital.

Camps have sprung up on every bit of available land in Port-au-Prince - school and university grounds, public gardens, a golf course, the central Champ de Mars plaza or simply on sidewalks.

One reason for the quake's devastating human and economic toll is that nearly a third of Haiti's nearly 10 million people were concentrated in the already overcrowded capital, as were the government and almost all industry.

Relief workers are working against the clock to find temporary settlements for the homeless before the spring rainy season.

Early sporadic downpours already are adding to the misery of people living in makeshift shelters of bed sheets propped up by poles. Inadequate sanitation combined with the rains could bring disease to a still-traumatized nation, adding to other strains on Haiti's health system.

The nation has the highest AIDS rate in the Caribbean, with 2.2 per cent of the 10 million people infected.

Bellerive can expect opposition to the land seizures in a country where land is a sacred and conflicted issue - as well as from within his own government.

He told the AP on Thursday, in a separate interview, that the government could fall as political opponents capitalize on its inability to respond strongly to the Jan. 12 earthquake.

Resistance is also expected from camp-dwellers.

Many in the makeshift camps in Port-au-Prince, some of which are evolving into shantytowns, don't want to move out of the debris-choked capital, which would separate them from family, jobs and aid.

In the meantime, the camps themselves are becoming ever more miserable.

Leonel Martine, a 42-year-old electrician, said a light overnight shower Friday left his camp near the prime minister's office in ankle-deep water and soaked the mattress he shares with his wife, his daughter and two grandchildren.

"My wife spent the night standing, holding the baby," he said.


Associated Press writer Jonathan Katz contributed to this report.

Haiti - after-earthquake/ AP Interview: Haiti PM fears government collapse

By JONATHAN M. KATZ , Associated Press Writer
Source: signonsandiego.com, Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 5:52 p.m.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said Thursday his government could collapse because political opponents are capitalizing on its inability to address the staggering fallout of the Jan. 12 earthquake.

Bellerive, who has been more visible than President Rene Preval since the deadly quake, told The Associated Press in a 40-minute interview that he has two immediate fears - how the 1.2 million people living in the streets will deal with the impending rainy season and the danger of political divisiveness.

"You have the feeling that everyone is trying to do his little part and accuse the other one of not doing his part," Bellerive said, including Haitian politicians, international groups and the business community. "Everyone is trying to create conflict when we have the same enemy right now: It's misery, it's disaster."

Bellerive had been prime minister for two months when the earthquake struck, have replaced a predecessor ousted mainly by senators from Preval's party. He is the sixth person to hold the post since 2004 in this politically unstable nation.

Preval took power under a U.N.-sanctioned election after two years of a U.S.-backed interim government that filled the void after the 2004 ouster of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Bellerive, an economist whose prior responsibilities included coordinating international aid for this deeply poor nation, said he understood criticism that Haiti's leaders did not do enough to help in the days after the magnitude-7 earthquake killed 200,000 people and leveled nearly every government ministry along with 38 percent of the capital.

"Because we didn't have any administration we could not give the services the population is entitled to. So they say there isn't any government," he said.

Since the quake, Bellerive said, he has spent sleepless nights worrying about impending rains - and their threat to cause landslides and floods that are constant killers in this Caribbean nation.

He said he has struggled to find solutions for those displaced by the quake. Most are still in the streets, trying to cope with poor sanitation and not enough food.

Then there is the potential for a constitutional storm.

A legislative election scheduled for this month has been canceled, threatening parliament's legitimacy. A presidential election planned for later in the year is also in question, with Preval's term expiring in 12 months.

In a country where peaceful transitions to power are rare, that could give opportunities to political rivals, Bellerive said.

"I am not asking for a truce, but I believe we have a serious problem that we have to face right now as a nation," Bellerive said. "The government is not able to resolve this situation alone."

The Associated Press

jeudi 18 février 2010

Nicolas Sarkozy promet de l'aide à Haïti

«L'aide internationale doit être massive, mais c'est aux haïtiens et à eux seuls
de définir un véritable projet national et ensuite de le conduire».
Déclaration du Président français, Nicolas Sarkozy à Port-au-Prince le 17 février 2010
Photo: AP/Javier Galeano

Source: lemonde.fr, LE MONDE, 18 février 2010, 13h34
Par Arnaud Leparmentier

Curieux déplacement de Nicolas Sarkozy en Haïti, mercredi 17 février. C'était la première visite d'un président français dans cette ancienne colonie qui se libéra en 1804 de la tutelle française. M. Sarkozy y est resté moins de quatre heures. Pour effacer les plaies du passé et préparer l'avenir, le chef de l'Etat a annoncé 325 millions d'euros d'aides.

Il positionne ainsi la France à l'approche de la conférence de New York du 31 mars sur la reconstruction d'Haïti et cherche à éviter que ce pays dévasté par le tremblement de terre du 12 janvier ne tombe sous la coupe des Etats-Unis.

Au milieu des ruines, le faste républicain a été à peine adapté. Les apparences de l'Etat ont été maintenues. Les A319 de la République, de faible autonomie, ont dû faire escale aux Açores, car il aurait été incongru de se ravitailler en Haïti.

Sur le tarmac, le président René Préval se prépare à accueillir son hôte et ne veut pas entendre parler du passé colonial. "L'histoire, c'est l'histoire et les colonisations ont été un phénomène mondial. Depuis l'indépendance, nous avons, politiquement, psychologiquement, surmonté cette période difficile, déclare-t-il. Laissez-nous recevoir le premier président français en Haïti." Resté francophone, Haïti n'a jamais totalement rompu avec la France, car elle aimait son héritage, celui de la Révolution. "Nous avons conquis notre indépendance en prenant la France au mot, en mettant en action la déclaration des droits de l'homme", dira plus tard M. Préval.

A 7 heures, il accueille chaleureusement M. Sarkozy, gravissant de façon peu protocolaire la passerelle de l'avion pour le saluer. La fanfare décimée a été reconstituée. Et La Marseillaise retentit. M. Sarkozy et M. Préval s'engouffrent dans un hélicoptère, acheminé par la marine française, pour survoler les zones sinistrées. Une caméra et un photographe témoignent de l'action sur le terrain du président Sarkozy qui visite un hôpital de campagne installé dans le lycée français.

M. Sarkozy tient ensuite une allocution à l'ambassade de France. Mais une réplique sismique menacerait l'édifice. Tout se passe donc dans les jardins, dont les murs se sont effondrés. On les a remplacés par des barbelés et la petite foule triée sur le volet côtoie donc marchands de souvenirs, tentes de fortune, coqs en cage, étendages de linge.

Le chef de l'Etat français, pourtant peu adepte de la repentance, évoque le passé sombre de la France dans la perle des Antilles. "Ne nous voilons pas la face. Notre présence ici n'a pas laissé que de bons souvenirs... Les blessures de la colonisation, et, peut-être pire encore, les conditions de la séparation ont laissé des traces." Après avoir surexploité l'île, la France décima ses élites lorsque Bonaparte tenta en vain de la reconquérir. Elle l'a saignée quand Charles X exigea, en 1825, 150 millions de francs or pour reconnaître son indépendance.

"Même si je n'avais pas commencé mon mandat au moment de Charles X, j'en suis quand même responsable au nom de la France", glisse M. Sarkozy, en annonçant au côté de M. Préval, dans les jardins de la présidence effondrée, l'annulation de la dette d'Haïti (56 millions d'euros). M. Sarkozy veut rendre Haïti aux Haïtiens. "A ceux qui (...) caresseraient l'idée d'une tutelle internationale sur Haïti, je dis ceci : le peuple haïtien est meurtri, le peuple haïtien est épuisé, mais le peuple haïtien est debout."

Bien sûr, il se garde du moindre reproche nominatif : "Les Américains ont fait un très bon travail." Tout juste concède-t-il que "dans l'urgence, on peut créer des petites tensions". L'armée américaine n'avait pas autorisé le secrétaire d'Etat français à la coopération, Alain Joyandet, à atterrir à Port-au-Prince juste après le séisme.

Haïti doit "tourner le dos aux erreurs du passé". "De cette catastrophe, il faut que vous fassiez un renouveau", exhorte le président français. Un développement endogène du pays est indispensable pour la "libérer" de sa "dépendance à l'égard de l'aide internationale".

M. Sarkozy a trouvé le temps de visiter le Champ-de-Mars, jardin public du centre-ville où se pressent les sans-abri. Atmosphère bon enfant, faite de promesses d'aides, d'assurance sur les adoptions d'enfants. "A la place du chaos et des pillages qu'on nous prédisait, on a vu des foules s'organiser et se recueillir dans la dignité", a commenté le président.

Dans son élément, le ministre français des affaires étrangères, Bernard Kouchner, constate : "La première mission de Médecins sans frontières, il y a quarante ans, c'était en Haïti. Ils y sont encore. " L'ancien French Doctor appelle ainsi à se poser les vraies questions : "Faut-il se contenter de reconstruire les hôpitaux ou créer un système de sécurité sociale ? " René Préval ne dit pas autre chose. "Le pays n'est pas à reconstruire. Il est à construire."

Arnaud Leparmentier

Le plan d'aide français pour les Haïtiens

2010 et 2011. 325 millions d'euros : annulation de la dette bilatérale (56 millions) ; effort budgétaire : 100 millions ; aide déjà prévue : 40 millions ; aide d'urgence : 24 millions ; part dans l'aide européenne : 65 millions ; cessions de matériel : 40 millions.

Etat. Police et la gendarmerie : 142 véhicules de police et de gendarmerie, formation de 70 cadres de police ; sécurité civile : mise à disposition de 118 véhicules, formation de 4 200 sapeurs-pompiers et de 30 médecins d'urgence ; formation de fonctionnaires ; coopération dans la sismologie ; aide à la protection contre les inondations, à la mise en place d'un cadastre.

Santé. Fourniture de 1 000 tentes et 16 000 bâches ; aide à la reconstruction de l'hôpital de la capitale.

Education. Accueil de 700 étudiants haïtiens supplémentaires (aux Antilles et en Guyane). Don de 50 000 livres.

dimanche 14 février 2010

U.S. paving way to rebuild Haiti

A woman walks among debris in Port-au-Prince, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2010
Photo: Ramon Espinosa / AP

A commission to oversee Haiti's recovery from the Jan. 12 earthquake could be led by former President Bill Clinton.

Source: miamiherald.com, February 10, 2010

The Obama administration is quietly advocating a plan to reconstruct Haiti that could involve a central role for former President Bill Clinton.

The plan, designed by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's staff and presented to top Haitian officials in recent days, calls for the creation of an Interim Haiti Recovery Commission to oversee the ``urgent early recovery'' over the next 18 months.

The commission's top priority: create a Haitian Development Authority to plan and coordinate billions in foreign assistance for at least 10 years.

The plan, obtained by The Miami Herald, states that the commission could be co-chaired by the Haitian prime minister and ``a distinguished senior international figure engaged in the recovery effort.''

Haiti observers believe the job description describes Clinton although he's not named in the document. The United Nations has already named him to coordinate its reconstruction efforts.

``I think he's a good choice if he can commit himself to doing the job,'' said Robert Maguire, a Haiti expert who is a professor at Trinity Washington University and chair of the U.S. Institute of Peace's Haiti Working Group. ``He seems to be a logical choice, someone with a deep commitment, connections and the trust of most, if not all of the players.''

Clinton could not be reached for comment.


Sources familiar with the plan say it was presented to Haitian President René Préval during Clinton's visit last weekend, and it was endorsed by Hillary Clinton's chief of staff, Cheryl Mills. Mills traveled to Haiti with Clinton in their second visit to the Caribbean nation since the Jan. 12 earthquake.

A State Department spokesman declined to comment, pointing instead to the secretary of state's comments about the importance of transparency and accountability in Haiti's reconstruction.


The administration's plan is among several that have been floated over the last week to Haitian government officials. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive called a meeting of international partners in Haiti to discuss the various proposals.

Washington's proposal comes a month before international donors are scheduled to meet in New York to raise billions to help rebuild a country that in less than a minute lost more than 250,000 buildings, including private homes, schools, hospitals and government offices.

The cost to rebuild Haiti remains elusive but economist Jeffrey Sachs estimated that the country's recovery needs could tally about $3.5 billion annually over the next four to five years to cover reconstruction, social assistance, development, peacekeeping and justice.

In recent years, the country has received about $1.2 billion in foreign aid, half of which has gone to peacekeeping and just 25 percent -- $30 per Haitian citizen -- for development.

Led by Bellerive, the government is expected to present its development plan during the conference. Donor nations and financial institutions have been jockeying behind the scenes to influence the reconstruction blueprint. Their suggestions have included various versions of the Washington plan.


For example, Canada is considering advocating for a trust fund managed by the World Bank. The idea, also outlined in Washington's proposal, calls for donors to channel funding through a single multidonor trust fund. Sachs, who does not support the Washington plan, is pushing for the Inter-American Development Bank to manage a similar trust fund.

``We should not see this as a U.S. political effort but a multilateral one,'' he said. ``It clearly should be the Haitian government alone. It shouldn't have a mixed membership of the president and international figures.''

Préval has not publicly commented on the proposals although he made a vague reference to the Washington plan on Saturday to a group of visiting Caribbean leaders.


Bellerive, who has called for greater donor coordination on Haiti, told The Miami Herald that the Washington plan is ``very close to what is needed to ensure transparency, efficiency and a leadership role of the Haitian government.''

But the final decision rests with Préval, who could form the interim recovery commission by decree.

The plan outlines the structure of the interim commission, which gives the Haitian president veto power. It also solicits advice from donors and experts in Haiti and the diaspora.

Maguire, who has not read the State Department document, said the plan sounds similar to an idea that Hillary Clinton was considering long before the earthquake. Her office has sought over the past several months to better coordinate assistance to Haiti, which remains impoverished despite billions of dollars in foreign aid.

``I think there is an approaching chaos of people getting involved in the reconstruction of Haiti, people who just want to make decisions on their own or people who want to profiteer from this,'' Maguire said. ``There is a desperate need for some sort of decision-making entity and it's clear the government of Haiti needs reenforcement.''

samedi 6 février 2010

HAITI: Did You Say Government?

Source: DEBANASYONAL, Sat February 6, 2010, 9 h 03 min 33 s
By Parnell Duverger
p_duverger@yahoo. com

Chief Economist & Senior Consultant
Omega Consultants & News

What government? Is it the government that failed to offer its condolences or its sympathy to its own people in distress, that had just started counting its dead on the ravaged streets of Port-au-Prince , Leogane and Jacmel, the three cities most affected on January 12, by this devastating and murderous earthquake measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale? Or, is it the government, no member of which showed up to help the citizens of their own country dig into the rubles to help pull out survivors, as the people of Haiti were seen to do with their bare hands so heroically?

What government? Is it the one that waited more than a week before even attempting to relocate their homeless and distressed citizens from the streets and into orderly Tent Cities where they could receive food and water, police protection, medical attention and sanitation services?

What government? Could it be the one that cowered into hiding while sending tractor loaders to pick up from the streets the dead bodies of our brothers and sisters, and perhaps foreigners also, including American citizens, throw them into a dump truck, with the whole world watching, and cascade them down like - I can’t bring myself to say the word - on a pile of other deceased victims on bare land, so unceremoniously, so callously, that the American media, Mr. Anderson Cooper of CNN in particular, felt repulsed enough to display openly a rightful indignation?

What government? Is it the one that finally emerged miraculously in Montreal, Canada, to profess an imagined ability to rebuild on its own a devastated Haiti, if only the International Community would be gullible enough to just give money, when funds donated in previous disasters remain unaccounted for?

What government? Is it the one now prosecuting a sorry bunch of religious missionaries who seem to be more at home in a world of prayers and do-gooders, and more eager to help the poor and the weak than educating themselves about the intricacies of legal adoption in the chaotic realities of post-earthquake Haiti?

Surely, mistakes were made. A crime may even has been committed. But, how about compassion, leniency or forgiveness in a public display of common sense, finally, or gratitude toward the American people whose generosity and solidarity with the people of Haiti remain boundless. Prime Minister Bellerive’s action, in this particular context, is far from being judicious, nor does it represent the compassion, grace and gratefulness that Haitians are known for. I urge President. René Préval to facilitate a pardon for the 10 American missionaries now charged with kidnapping, and to return them to their anxious families in the United States . The children suffered no harm, and a powerful message has been sent to child traffickers. So, let’s return to the urgent business of taking care of the people of Haiti in their daily struggle for relief, recovery and survival. Prime Minister Jean Max Bellerive’s energies would be better spent on re-arranging the priorities of his government, about which most Haitians and Haitian-Americans seem to feel disgusted, quite frankly, for its absence and total irrelevance in the daily lives of Haitians, as the tragedy of this earthquake continues to unfold.

Parnell Duverger
February 4, 2010