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Commentary: When Haiti hosts CARICOM!
Published on February 23, 2013 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Jean H Charles

I was still in Cap Haitien on 18th February, nursing a cold and recuperating from the debauchery of the national carnival. Important business was taking place in Port-au Prince, Haiti was coming out if its hideout. It was receiving on 18th and 19th February 2013 for the first time, the heads of government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) as a host of the 24th Intercessional meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM, its president Michel Martelly being for the first time the chairman of the Caribbean organization.

Jean Hervé Charles LLB, MSW, JD, former Vice-Dean of Students at City College of the City University of New York, is now responsible for policy and public relations for the political platform in power in Haiti, Répons Peyisan. He can be reached at: jeanhcharles@aol
I took the early flight to Port au Prince to catch the last day of the Conference. I found a capital city spic and span in full dress regalia ready to receive the visitors of note. It was a full day of work for the heads of government. They took the decision to admit French as a working language of their deliberations (63% of the CARICOM population speaks French). They set a working agenda with the American attorney general, Mr Eric Holder Jr. (with a Caribbean background via Barbados) who attended the Monday session, to attack the thorny issue of Caribbean-American deportees, incubators of insecurity in the region.

The heads of government reiterated the need for the full application of the notion of free movement of persons and goods within the community of island nations. Haiti offered the system of electronic traceability to improve the quality of products in the chain of food in the supermarkets.


President Martelly insisted that the CARICOM improve its internal transportation system so the colonial route ceases to be the best model for a trip from one island to the other. That issue will be the focus of the next heads of government meeting in Trinidad and Tobago in July.

Last but not least the Caribbean community is invited to CARIFESTA IX in Suriname from August 16 to August 25, 2013.

For a first as a maestro in chief, the chairman of the conference, President Michel Martelly received large accolades from his brethren. I attended one of the meetings and I was honoured to watch President Martelly, with grace, humour and dexterity, conduct the session with ease, finesse and efficacy. Comrade Ralph Gonsalves, the prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, a fervent admirer of Toussaint Louverture, was visiting Haiti for the first time and was also impressed. The Minister of Immigration from the Turks and Caicos Islands, Mr Ricardo Don-Hue Gardiner, whom I castigated in a recent essay for his position on Haitians in the islands, was gracious in the extreme. He told me of his plan to come back to Haiti with his son for the cultural experience. We may even work out an orderly arrangement of supplying Haitian workers to Providenciales.

The return for Haiti will be tremendous. Guyana is working to produce rice with Haitian workers; Bahamas will receive fruits and produce from Haiti for its budding tourist industry. With tongue in cheek, I told the minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade of Jamaica, Mr Arnold J Nicholson, that Haiti could use a thousand Jamaican women, not only to teach English in the small towns of the country but to spur a women’s revolution, making our Haitian women firmer and stronger. By contrast we have thousands of young, polished and well educated Haitian males to export for the single ladies from Jamaica to Guyana.

I have revisited an essay written some seven years ago entitled: A roadmap for a coordinated and integrated approach towards the Caribbean islands. Seven years later, CARICOM has not moved fast enough to adopt one seventh of the agenda. In fact, the Eastern Caribbean islands have moved so much faster that a fast track approach has been adopted to accommodate the fully integrated policies of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

In the essay I compared the Caribbean to a locomotive pulled by several engines. The first one would be made of Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. Starting with the Greater Antilles, Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic and Jamaica combined represent some 34 million people. By pulling their markets together they can motorize the whole region. Raul Castro, Michel Martelly, Danilo Medina and Portia Simpson Miller are men and woman of common sense and of practicality.

They can accelerate that process as soon as they understand that intelligent, creative people represent power. Starting with a daily flight from Havana to Cap Haitien and from Kingston to Port au Prince, the Haitian madam Sara (enterprising women merchants) can provide the Cuban citizen with the toiletries, soap and underwear that are now a luxury. The profusion of necessities they have been missing for the past fifty years will accelerate the democratization process. In return the madam Sara will have their teeth fixed, their eyes repaired and their bags filled with new revenue. The women from Jamaica can provide themselves with large quantities of art work from Haiti for the budding tourist businesses of Montego Bay.

The synergy of the creativity of some 35 million people will soon create the market place of goods and ideas that will replace the horror of communism in Cuba and the squalor of capitalism in Haiti.

The OECS has already proven that cooperation and collaboration work. It is up to the Northern Caribbean states – ONCS -- to start a movement that will render CARICOM more dynamic and truer to its mission, as stated by its present chair, President Michel Martelly: “With a view to leaving the legacy of a strengthened, united and even more dynamic Caribbean community.”

The ball is your court, President Martelly!

The Dominican Republic has requested to become a member of the CARICOM but its request was tabled and ignored. It is incongruent and illogical that Cuba is not a member of the CARICOM family. A separate ONCS, Organization of Northern Caribbean States, will speed up the process! The revolutionary redemptory mandate of Haiti requests no less, and no more from its chairman!
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