Caricom remains ‘optimistic’ on Haitian-led solution

KINGSTON – The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Monday said it remained “optimistic” that a solution to the Haitian crisis could emerge sooner rather than later as there appeared to be consensus for an initiative resulting in the formation of a Presidential Council to deal with the political and socio-economic situation in the French-speaking CARICOM country.

“We in CARICOM remain optimistic. I think among all the stakeholders… I am very confident we have found commonality and we have found a common path through which we can support a Haitian led solution and a Haitian owned solution,” CARICOM chairman and Guyana’s President Dr Irfaan Ali told a news conference.

The 15-member regional integration grouping had organised the one-day high-level meeting on Haiti that brought together the “regional and international friends of Haiti,” including United States Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, to discuss a possible solution to the crisis that has been exacerbated by criminal gangs that have vowed to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Dr Ariel Henry, who has been left stranded in Kenya.

“We must take quick and decisive action here in this room to bring the situation under control and to return the country to the Haitian people,” Ali said, thanking all the stakeholders “for their selfless support to the Haitian people…as we work together for the common good of the Haitian people.

“We have held deep and honest discussions with our Haitian brothers and sisters, who represent the political, civil society and faith based leaders of the Haitian people to attempt to arrive at consensus around effective inclusive transitional government structure to take the country into general elections in the shortest possible time”.

President Ali said the discussions “have not been easy”, but he wanted to impress upon all the stakeholders that they have a duty “to their people to reach a consensus among themselves now.

“The consensus if for all the Haitian people and stakeholders to give a little for the greater good of the Haitian people,” Ali said, adding “we must all reach a consensus among ourselves and our support for the Haitian people.

“The difficult decisions we make here today will have to be in the interest of the Haitian people and we must be clear sighted, strategic, laser focus on acting in their interest. We must focus not just on the immediate solution but on the need for putting in place building blocks for political stability and the long term recovery and development of Haiti.

“Indeed the humanitarian crisis is also one of the importance and priority for us in this region,” Ali said, thanking the members of the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) of three former prime ministers and chaired by Dr Kenny Anthony, that has been holding discussions with the various Haitian stakeholders in Port au Prince.

He said he was pleased the grouping had accepted the “charge from CARICOM heads to undertake good office facilitation in Haiti” adding “your insight and advice in support of Haiti and the Haitian people have been critical to ensuring that CARICOM discussed and find action oriented solutions to the profound humanitarian crisis”.

Host Prime Minister Andrew Holness said while progress is being made “the situation in Haiti continues to worsen on the ground especially over the last few weeks”.

He said without recounting the disruptions and violence being experienced in the member CARICCOM country “it is clear that Haiti is now at a tipping point.

“CARICOM and our regional partners are deeply concerned as our international partners,” Holness said, noting that the regional leaders have been intensively engaged in finding a solution to the Haitian crisis and that “strong and decision action owned by the people of Haiti must be taken to stem the seed of lawlessness and hopelessness before it is too late.

“We are deeply distressed that it is already too late for too many, who have lost far too much at the hands of criminal gangs. The fear of the situation in Haiti worsening to become a civil war is now a real one,” Holness said, adding “we are all agreed that this cannot be allowed to happen, not in our hemisphere with our long standing democratic tradition and reputation as a zone of peace”.

He said in the past tremendous assistance had been given to Haiti to ensure democratic rule, adding “Haiti needs new cohesive domestic resolve and the requisite support from its partners.

“The people of Haiti deserve the opportunity to experience another way of being to determine their destiny, to secure their rights and to be free from oppressive forces within and without. This will therefore require a long term reconstruction and support plan from the region and the international partners, said Holness.

He said that Haitian voices must be central to any solution and that they “must feel and know that they are vital part of the process, having ownership in its planning and implementation.

Holness, who held bilateral talks with Blinken on Monday, said it is his hope that at the end of the meeting here “we would have developed a clear and defined pathway forward.

“The people of Haiti need and deserve nothing less than the safety, freedom and prosperity that the first free Black republic deserves,” Holness added.

For his part, Blinken said Haiti was faced with a political crisis, unrest creating an “untenable situation for the Haitian people.

“We all know that urgent action is needed on both the political and security tracks to help move things in a better direction, to help do right by the people of Haiti, Blinken said adding Washington’s presence here “was to listen to your ideas but also to provide out concrete support for the way forward …in particular the joint proposal developed by CARICOM and all of the Haitian stakeholders to expedite a political transition.

‘We support the plan to create a broad based inclusive, independent presidential college that would in particular first take concrete steps to meet the immediate needs of the Haitian people, second to enable the swift deployment of the Multinational Security System and third through that deployment, through a reinforced Haitian National Police create the security situation that is necessary for holding free and fair elections”.

Blinken also took the opportunity to announce that the United States Department of Defence is doubling its approved support for the MSS to US$200 million, bringing the total US support to US$300 million. In addition, Washington is providing US$33 million in more humanitarian assistance to the people of Haiti.

In a telephone address to the meeting, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau re-affirmed his country’s ongoing support for a Haitian-led plan for the French country, adding “Haiti needs all of us to continue to focus on their well-being”.

He said Canada would continue to be there for the Haitian-led solution “I know we are close to resolving it but there are still more work to do and Canada will continue to be there with financial contribution and humanitarian contribution and any form of political support we can”.

The meeting also heard support from Mexico and France with Paris indicating it is not supportive of Prime Minister Henry being forced into exile. (CMC)

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