Caricom’s silence on UN’s rejection of Haitian claims
IT’S ALMOST a month since United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon informed Haiti’s President Michel Martelly of the quite shocking decision to invoke “legal immunity” for rejecting compensation claims by some 5 000 Haitian cholera victims.
That tragic decision was conveyed via telephone within two days following the conclusion of a CARICOM Heads of Government Conference in Haiti presided over by President Martelly, current chairman of the 15-member Community.
In an editorial earlier this month denouncing that tragic decision, we concluded with an alert that it was now awaiting “CARICOM’s response to this quite disturbing rejection” of the compensation claims from the Haitian cholera victims.
Subsequently, on March 13, the MIDWEEK NATION, reported on a telephone interview with former long-serving Prime Minister of Jamaica, P.J. Patterson. It quoted his strong denunciation of the UN’s resort to “legal immunity” as a device to release it from responding to the compensation claims resulting from the cholera epidemic that had its origin with UN peace-keeping soldiers from Nepal then serving in Haiti.
As noted in the March 13 edition, “while neither President Martelly nor CARICOM is yet to make a response to the UN’s resort to ‘legal immunity’” in refusing to deal with the claim by thousands of Haitian cholera victims, Mr Patterson was openly questioning “whether this very disgusting rejection of compensation could stand up to the impartial judgment of an international court”.
Patterson has served, on varied occasions, as a “special adviser” on Haiti to CARICOM. As such, he had opportunities for consultation also with former United States President Bill Clinton. The former president has been serving as the UN’s Special Representative on Haiti since the January 2010 nightmare earthquake which devastated that extremely poor nation, later to fall victim of the dreaded cholera epidemic.
While Patterson was engaged in his verbal blast at the UN’s resort to summon “legal immunity” to avoid a moral, humanitarian obligation for compensation claims by the Haitian cholera victims, President Clinton was on a two-day visit to Haiti and left without making any known public statement since on what remains a shocking response by the UN.
What’s of immediate relevance at this time is knowing when CARICOM will break its deafening public silence on what initiatives, if any, are being pursued, either directly by its current chairman, President Martelly, or via the Georgetown-based Community Secretariat?
We hold the view that neither public silence nor, worse, continuing inaction, is an option for CARICOM, the regional economic integration movement now in its 40th year of existence.