OUR CARIBBEAN: Pitiful inaction as crisis deepens for Haitians
Unless I missed it, I cannot recall any head of government of our Caribbean Community (CARICOM) making any reference in his/her address at the current session of the United Nations General Assembly in support of Haiti’s position that the United Nations has a “moral obligation” to offer compensation to an estimated 8 000 cholera victims linked to negligence by a contingent of the world body’s peacekeeping force in that poverty-stricken nation.
Up to the end of his six-month tenure as CARICOM’s chairman that concluded with last July’s annual Summit of Heads of Government in Port-of-Spain, Haiti’s President Michel Martelly was mysteriously missing in action when it came to taking a public stand on the UN’s obligation. Despite, that is, rising calls from human rights and other civil society organizations at home and abroad, for the UN to offer compensation based on documented evidence of negligence by a Nepalese contingent of its peacekeeping military force.
Surprisingly the public call, on behalf of the government in Port-au-Prince, for the UN to honour its “moral responsibility” to the victims of the cholera outbreak – which had followed the unprecedented earthquake devastation of that country back in January 2010 – came last week from Haiti’s Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe when he addressed the general assembly on September 27.
Lamothe also proposed the creation of a “joint commission” to consider “ways and means of finding and definitively eradicating this (cholera) illness in Haiti altogether . . .” Clearly, an official response for compensation to the families of over 6 000 dead cholera victims and an estimated 2 000-plus still suffering from the dreaded disease, should precede any initiative for the establishment of the proposed “joint commission”.
It is high time for the Caribbean Community to come forward with a principled public position against this shameful attitude by the UN to the thousands of Haitian victims of cholera – hitherto unknown to the Haitian people who account for approximately eight million of CARICOM’s estimated 14 million citizens.
The former long-serving Prime Minister of Jamaica, P.J. Patterson, a consultant to CARICOM on Haiti, had earlier distinguished himself in an interview I had with him by his unequivocal denunciation of the UN’s “callous” attitude towards this Haitian tragedy. He made clear that the Caribbean region should not shy away from effective involvement in the interest of justice for the Haitian people.
The time seems overdue for practical action on behalf of the Haitian people by CARICOM, hopefully with support from allies within the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group. The more so now when, in the face of displayed arrogance by UN decision-makers, another crisis has developed across Haiti’s border in the Dominican Republic that could render a virtual generation of Haitians stateless.
As reported out of Geneva by the UN Human Rights Office, the Dominican Republic’s constitutional court has now ruled that the children of “undocumented migrants” who have been in the Dominican Republic and registered as Dominicans as far back as 1929, cannot have Dominican nationality as their parents are considered to be “in transit. . . .”
Of particular significance is that up to 2010, as noted by the UN Human Rights Office, the Dominican Republic had followed the principle of “automatically bestowing citizenship to anyone born on its soil…” Now it has come to this new crisis situation.
• Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist.