No decision yet on troops for Haiti

It is still unclear if Barbadian armed forces will be dispatched to Haiti as part of a regional and international effort to restore peace in that CARICOM territory.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Kerrie Symmonds said Sunday the region was still awaiting the final word from Haiti’s Presidential Transition Council, which was installed only a week ago.

“That council has been named and, to the best of my understanding and information, they have started to meet internally. I guess we are just waiting for them to come back to us on what their recommendations are. They are supposed to identify the name of a person who can be the interim president, then they also must structure a road map to an election,” he told the Daily Nation.

“We had said that if there was a multinational security force, we would work with the Regional Security System and we would send our people through that mechanism. Nothing has changed yet, but obviously we cannot do anything until such time that the Presidential Transitional Council in Haiti determines that they have identified a person who is going to be functioning as president and that person has to give the go-ahead for the process to begin.”

Symmonds pointed out that as a full member of CARICOM, Haiti must be equally able to rely on the spirit of cooperation and partnership that membership affords, especially in times of crisis, something which has served the region in good stead for many decades.

“We are unified under a CARICOM umbrella. So that a humanitarian disaster in one part of CARICOM cannot simply be ignored by the rest. I will concede that Haiti may not be as close to some of the members as, for example, Barbados is to a St Vincent. However, we must remember that none of us are immune from disasters, whether it be natural or human-made.

“Regardless of how it is caused, we will all want to rely on each other in the spirit of cooperation once we are facing crisis,” he said.

The minister said Barbados and the rest of CARICOM were not divorced from the instability in Haiti, which presented a threat to national security, including the proliferation of guns and narcotics throughout the region.

“The other thing that we must consider is that it is a question of security for the entire region. Right now, on the ground in Haiti, we have a large percentage of the country that is controlled by armed gangs. The rule of law has broken down. Those things that we take for granted in Barbados like public health, public hygiene, the capacity of the country to guarantee law and order, all these things have now either collapsed or are collapsing in Haiti. It is vitally important for countries in CARICOM to work together to try to restore a government for delivering these essentials,” Symmonds said.

“Beyond that, because the country is now run by armed gangs, there is a large movement of illegal firearms, ammunition as well as narcotics. This only lends to the instability, and it is important to remember that Haiti is only 90-odd miles away from Jamaica; it is also not far from [The] Bahamas. It is therefore very easy for some of these types of problems on mainland Haiti to be transported across water to a neighbouring CARICOM country.”

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