Why Haiti’s Always On Our Mind

The heart-wrenching images of  hired assassins engaged in the heinous act of taking the life of a sitting President of the Caribbean’s oldest republic born out of a hard-won fight for freedom of the colonial master, now begs the question:

When will it end?

Haiti is still reeling under the impact of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021. 

While the members of CARICOM do not possess the kind of arms like those belonging to the  super powers, it was encouraging to hear them raise their voices in one accord in their call for support to deal with the Cinderella nation.

New Details Emerge About Suspects in Killing of Haitian President

“We will have to show the resilience and fortitude of the Haitian people, as we strive to overcome challenges and advance the initiatives to improve the lives of all citizens of our Caribbean Community” said  Dr Carla N. Barnett, Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community, on the occasion of the opening ceremony of the Forty-Fourth Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community, Nassau, The Bahamas on February15. 

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She added:  “That goal – to create a safe, sustainable, prosperous and viable Community for all – has been the guiding principle of our efforts over the last 50 years, and will continue to guide us over the next 50 and beyond”.

The Conference in July also agreed in the context of the bilateral relationship with the United States, to urge for the removal of the sanctions on Venezuela to allow, among other things, for progress on the exploitation of cross-border natural gas fields between Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela. 

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This advocacy has borne fruit with the announcement last month by the United States to waive sanctions on Venezuela to allow for the joint project to proceed.

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Of special significance was the announcement of plans by Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau to  attend the attending the Conference.

According to David Thurton of CBS News in a post on February 15, 

Justin Trudeau, wearing a jacket and tie, waves in front of an airplane with Canada's coat of arms on it.

“Trudeau has less than two days with leaders of the Caribbean economic and political bloc”, Thurton noted. “While the PM will be preoccupied by the worsening situation in Haiti, the leaders of small island nations will be bringing other concerns to the table”.

Climate change, migration and food insecurity are also expected to feature prominently in the discussions. Bahamian Prime Minister Philip Davis told a news conference before the summit that Haiti will still be a “priority” during the three-day meeting.

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Trudeau’s arrival Wednesday afternoon comes as CARICOM marks its 50th anniversary. It also signals Canada’s return to the Caribbean’s political stage since  Canadian PM Stephen Harper. Trudeau’s return to CARICOM was supposed to happen in 2020, but domestic issues derailed his attendance.

In a statement announcing the trip, Trudeau’s office said he hopes to find a “Haitian-led” solution to an “egregious” security crisis fuelled by gang warfare that is “having a devastating impact on the Haitian people.”

A parent tries to hand off his daughter to get her through the gate of Haiti´s immigration office as they wait their turn to apply for a passport, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023. A rush for passports at Haiti’s main immigration office has been unleashed After U.S. President Joe Biden announced last month that the U.S. will accept 30,000 people a month from Haiti, Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela if they pass a background check and have an eligible sponsor and a passport to travel.

A parent tries to hand off his daughter to get her through the gate of Haiti’s immigration office as they wait their turn to apply for a passport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on Feb. 9, 2023. (Odelyn Joseph/The Associated Press)

Jean Augustine, a former Liberal cabinet minister and long-time advocate for the Caribbean diaspora, said Canada has a “moral impetus” to help Haiti.

“We see how we’ve come together around Ukraine,” Augustine told CBC. “This is the right time as the prime minister goes down there to make sure that the conversations occur, and that the other leaders are on board with strategies that can help.” 

The Canadian government said it provided over $90 million in humanitarian and development assistance to Haiti over fiscal year 2022-23. It has supported the Haitian National Police by deploying a long-range patrol aircraft and coordinating the delivery of security equipment. 

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Trinidad and Tobago was represented at the meeting by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and included Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne and Energy Minster Stuart Young.   

As the leaders struggle to come up with solutions to this apparently chronic situation of socio-economic instability, violence and poverty in Haiti, it seems that – much to their peril – no one there is interested in looking at little Trinidad and Tobago as an example of what is possible when people make a decision to succeed.

For whole our Haitian brothers and sisters are fully aware that – as Black Stalin sang –   “we came from the same ship on the same ship”, they are still mikes away from arriving at that sense of Trini consciousness which makes us such a special people on the world stage.

T&T Guardian - Opposition leader Dr Keith Rowley right ...

So perhaps the best thing PM Rowley can now do is bring back a boat load of Haitians to Play Mas here for Carnival 2023.

It’s not too late as the masses gear up to trample the proverbial  Savannah Grass at the Queen’s Park Savannah and other places after three years of pain and suffering.

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