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Caricom blanks DR

By JULIEN NEAVES Wednesday, November 27 2013

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IN WHAT Caricom chairman and TT’s Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar described as the “first salvo” against the Dominican Republic (DR) following that country’s Constitutional Court ruling denying citizenship to persons of Haitian heritage, Caricom has halted consideration of the DR’s request for membership to the regional group.

The decision was announced yesterday at a media conference following a meeting of the Bureau of the Conference of Heads of Government of Caricom at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s.

The Bureau consists of Persad-Bissessar as current chairman, incoming chairman and St Vincent Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves and immediate past chair, Haitian President Michel Martelly.

Persad-Bissessar described the meeting as “very productive and vigorous discussions”.

Asked about the possible expulsion of the DR from economic partnership Cariforum, she said the matter was discussed but they took the position to hold on this issue for another day and, “not shoot all our guns on the same day”.

She said there were other options against the DR as well, including severing of diplomatic ties and the suspension of consideration of the DR joining Caricom is the “first salvo.” She noted that for now they will engage in dialogue with the DR.

Gonsalves said the DR must operate in good faith reiterating the point by quoting the Bible: “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” He said Caricom is prepared to consider other measures if the DR fails to operate in good faith. Persad-Bissessar read from a draft Caricom statement on the issue.

“Caricom condemns the abhorrent and discriminatory ruling of September 23, 2013, of the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic on nationality which retroactively strips tens of thousands of Dominicans, mostly of Haitian descent, of citizenship rendering them stateless and with no recourse to appeal,” she read.

Caricom described as “especially repugnant” that the ruling ignored earlier recommendations made by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) that the DR adapt its immigration laws and practices in accordance with the provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights.

Caricom, she said, noted that the ruling also violates the Dominican Republic’s international human rights obligations and “created an environment where, with the abrogation (repeal) of rights that flow from citizenship, arbitrariness can flourish as illustrated by recent media reports of the forced deportation to Haiti of persons claiming to be Dominican and with no linguistic or familial ties to that country.”

Caricom, she continued, reiterates its call to the government of the Dominican Republic to take the “necessary political, legislative, judicial and administrative steps urgently to redress the grave humanitarian situation created by the ruling.

“The Community also calls on regional and hemispheric countries and organisations to lend their voice to urge the Dominican Republic to right this terrible wrong,” Caricom stated.

Caricom noted that while it welcomed the intervention by Venezuela to assist in resolving the issue “given the grave humanitarian implications of the court ruling the Community cannot allot its relationship with the Dominican Republic to continue as normal. In that regard, the Community, at this time, will suspend consideration of the request by the Dominican Republic for membership of Caricom.

Caricom added that it will review its relationship with the Dominican Republic “in other fora”: including Cariforum, Community of Latin American and Carribean States, the Organisation of American States and the Association of Caribbean States.

“This cannot be business as usual,” Persad-Bissessar said. “Moreover we call on the global and regional community to pressure the government of the Dominican Republic to adopt urgent measures to ensure that the jaundiced decision of the Constitutional Court does not stand and that the full citizenship rights of persons of Haitian descent, born in the Dominican Republic, are guaranteed. The Caribbean Community accords this matter the highest priority,” she said.

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