|Absolute DR crime |
Thursday, November 28 2013
For most of Caricom’s history, the issues faced seemed largely on how to move the regional body’s agenda forward. Most of the meetings held among heads of government seemed to repeat old pledges and then promise to seek ways to develop the Community into a more meaningful trading bloc and political and diplomatic entity. We acknowledge that part of the problem of a lack of advancement lay with changes in governments when elections were held. We in the Caribbean seem to have difficulty in developing continuity from government to government on domestic as well as regional issues.
However, two recent incidents have now attracted the attention of the Caribbean Community whether they “like it or not”— to borrow an old phrase. These issues are the expulsions of persons of Haitian heritage resident in the Dominican Republic and the rejection by Trinidad and Tobago’s Immigration of some 13 Jamaicans who arrived at Piarco without being able to meet the standard requirements for entry. Of the two, the Dominican Republic matter is far more serious because it involves the forced expulsion of people of Haitian heritage who have resided in that country for several years and even those who were born there.
Following a Caricom Leaders’ meeting at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s on Tuesday, Haitian President Michel Martelly told the local media that some 300 DR residents of Haitian heritage were literally “dumped” over the border between the countries. These included newborn infants, children, families and the elderly. A Constitutional Court in DR had ruled to retroactively deny citizenship to persons of Haitian descent who were born after June 21, 1929. This shocking decision was under discussion between Haiti and the DR, and according to President Martelly, the Dominican Republic had agreed, during discussions held earlier in Caracas, that further dialogue should be pursued before acting on the Court’s decision.
But without warning, the Dominican Republic apparently rounded up some 300 persons of Haitian descent and dumped them across the border into the Haitian town of Croix de Bouquets, and small children were included in this expulsion. President Martelly claimed that many of these persons had been born or living in the DR for years and no longer spoke French or had connections back in Haiti. What is happening in the DR to Haitians is an absolute crime, almost akin to the persecution of the Jews.
Notwithstanding what must be seen as a betrayal by the DR, President Martelly said that his country would not cut ties with the DR. It seems that the neighbouring country is too important to Haiti’s very limited trading capability, and to cut all ties would be suicidal to Haiti’s already battered economy and society. And while we must be sympathetic to Haiti’s position here—after all they get almost no meaningful economic or development support from the Caribbean or the wider region, including the United States—we call upon our government, as Chair of Caricom, to take any and all such peaceful action to force the Dominican Republic to cease the expulsions of Haitian living there.
We support the decision to put the Dominican Republic’s application to join Caricom on hold, and we will support any decision to place economic sanctions on that country. And we wonder whether there is a regional Court of Human Rights where the DR Constitutional Court’s decision can be challenged, for it should be challenged in other forums.
We also wonder at the silence of other Regional Institutions on this atrocity? We have not heard from the Association of Caribbean States or the Organization of American States on what is a subject of such grave concern.
It is time that the wider region speaks out clearly for justice when its most dispossessed peoples are being abused in this manner.