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EDITORIAL – Haitian army seems a false Martelly move

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EDITORIAL – Haitian army seems a false Martelly move

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SHARED CONCERNS have been reported by the governments of the United States and Canada over the expressed intention of Haiti’s President Michel Martelly to establish a new Haitian army to replace what was disbanded 16 years ago by former President Jean Bertrand Aristide. 
This likely development is also known to be of concern within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) which, while respecting Haiti’s right as a sovereign nation to establish a military force, is, nevertheless, mindful of a further depletion of very limited resources required for essential rehabilitation of post-earthquake social services and general economic recovery.
Having backed away from his original announcement to establish a new military force in the wake of negative official signals from aid-donor nations, President Martelly last week disclosed his decision to have a special civilian commission to advise on how best to achieve the objective of a permanent army.
Speaking at a ceremony to mark Armed Forces Day, Martelly said that the commission would have 40 days to submit recommendations so that he could consider what steps should be pursued early in 2012 when his government “can also start thinking about the withdrawal of UN troops from Haiti…”.
However, no sooner had Martelly made known his intention for a new Haitian army than dissenting voices within Haiti as well as among representative groups of the significant Haitian diaspora in North America were being raised against what is viewed as “lopsided priorities” of the administration in Port-au-Prince.
For a start, as President Martelly himself has estimated, it would require approximately US$95 million for the creation of an envisaged army of 3 500 personnel. This would result in further disruptions in the provision of urgently-needed services in the health, education and housing sectors – and while the Haitian people continue to struggle against the dreaded cholera epidemic.
It is true that he had promised during the presidential election campaign to restore a Haitian army, exploiting, in the process, resentment from anti-Aristide groups against the disbanding of the military by the then president, who was subsequently ousted from office by a US-backed coup in which disgraced former military and police officers had played significant roles.
But Martelly has had the opportunity as president to reflect on the immediate, pressing priorities of the Haitian masses and, in particular, the thousands of victims of the devastating earthquake who are still struggling to survive with some dignity while pledges from donor-nations are too often honoured in the breach.
In this depressing scenario, creation of a new military force can hardly be appreciated by the suffering Haitian people as a developmental priority.