By Joseph Guyler Delva
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (HCNN) -- The head of the Heritage Foundation for Haiti, a local branch of Transparency International, acknowledged on Wednesday that the Haitian government has shown unprecedented political will to fight corruption in the Caribbean country with a long tradition of corrupt practices.
Marilyn Allien, who heads the main civil society anti-corruption group in the country, said her organization and others had pushed, under several previous governments, to help pass an anti-corruption law to crack down on endemic corrupt practices in Haiti, but previous leaders never wanted to take steps to make it happen.
"It is clear that previous government leaders did not show any political will to have an anti-corruption law passed, but it is for the first time a government shows such a political will to take steps toward fighting corruption in Haiti," Allien told the Haitian-Caribbean News Network (HCNN), on Wednesday.
"We've seen unprecedented steps taken by the administration of President (Michel) Martelly and Prime Minister (Laurent) Lamothe to fight corruption, such as the new anti-corruption law," Allien said.
"But a lot remains to be done, and now that we have a law, it needs to be fully enforced," stated Allien.
Haitian President Michel Martelly signed into law last month a tough bill approved by Parliament following intense efforts by Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe and the anti-corruption unit, known by its French acronym ULCC, led by Antoine Atouriste.
The new law stiffens measures to punish those involved with corruption, who now incur 3 to 15 years imprisonment compared to 1 to 3 years, up to recently.
Allien's Heritage Foundation for Haiti also collaborated with the ULCC in the drafting of the bill considered a milestone in the fight against corruption in the country. Allien also commended Parliament for passing the bill proposed by the government.
The anti-corruption unit chief, Antoine Atouriste, said his office has already drafted a bill to protect whistleblowers and to allow journalists and the public to have greater access to government information. The Heritage Foundation for Haiti also helped with these efforts.
Lamothe said last week that fighting corruption was a way to fight poverty in the country where most people live on less than $2 per day.