Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (centre) meets Haiti's Foreign Minister, Pierre-Richard Casimir, second from left. Others from left are Guy Alexandre of Haiti; Winston Dookeran, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Trinidad and Tobago; and Dr Iva Gloudon, Trinidad and Tobago's High Commissioner to Jamaica. Photo: OPM
By Caribbean News Now contributor
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad -- Prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago and current chair of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Kamla Persad-Bissessar, met on Monday evening with the foreign minister of Haiti, Pierre-Richard Casimir, to discuss the recent ruling on nationality made by a court in the Dominican Republic.
On 23 September 2013, the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic handed down Judgement TC/0168 that considered the status of immigrants entering the country since 1929 and that of their offspring with respect to citizenship. The ruling, which has retroactive effect, cannot be appealed.
The ruling strips Dominican citizenship from people born in the Dominican Republic during this almost 85-year period. It is also widely viewed as discriminatory as it affects mostly Dominican-born people of Haitian descent.
It is estimated that 210,000 persons born in the country of Haitian immigrant parents could become stateless, with another 34,000 born to parents of other nationalities suffering the same fate.
Persad-Bissessar said she respects the sovereign independence of the Dominican Republic and of its constitutional court.
Equally, she acknowledged that those in the Dominican Republic whose status and rights have been cast in doubt face a difficult situation.
The prime minister said she believes that resolving this situation is in the interest of all concerned in the region. In particular, CARICOM, of which Haiti is a member, and of which the Dominican Republican is an applicant for membership, may have a role to play.
Persad-Bissessar, as the current chair of CARICOM, will therefore consult with the Bureau of CARICOM and the secretary general of CARICOM, Irwin LaRocque, on the best way to contribute to bringing about that resolution.
Former Jamaican prime minister PJ Patterson has already condemned the decision by the constitutional court in Santo Domingo.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has also warned that the ruling can have a devastating impact on thousands of children and leave them stateless.
Santo Domingo-based journalist Jean Michel Caroit
According to Santo Domingo-based journalist Jean Michel Caroit, although the Dominican Republic is not a member of CARICOM, it is a part of the CARIFORUM arrangement, and the matter could be taken up at that level.
“CARIFORUM is the place where part of the European assistance and cooperation is discussed and channeled. So I think if there is a move by CARICOM on this issue it would have an impact,” Caroit said, describing it as a complicated, complex issue that the regional grouping needs to acquaint itself with.
Caroit, who writes for the French newspaper Le Monde, says the court decision was influenced by what he describes as alleged xenophobia being pushed by one small but influential far right party in particular.
WINN contributed to this report.