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Commentary: To march or not to march; to play mas or not to play mas!
Published on March 8, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version


By Jean H Charles

The media in Haiti or a portion of same has been lambasting President Michel Joseph Martelly for refusing to fund, give a venue to and make merry in the Haitian National Carnival with some Haitian bands that took pleasure in mocking the policy of his government as their preferred theme of their Mardi Gras songs.

Jean H Charles LLB, MSW, JD is a syndicated columnist with Caribbean News Now. He can be reached at: and followed for past essays at Caribbeannewsnow/Haiti
The same debate is being repeated this week in New York and in Boston for the annual St Patrick’s Day parade, one of the biggest in the world. On the legal front in the United States, the Rubicon has been crossed. The highest court has determined that the organizers of the religious parade have the right to discriminate in terms of who could or could not be a participant in the parade.

The St Patrick’s Day parade organization, a semi-religious institution with Catholic leanings that abhors plain promotion of homosexual values, has full right to say no to organizations that have as a policy the promotion of homosexual values. If they want to parade, they must organize their own parades. They cannot force themselves into the religious leaning parade. This is the law of the land.

The situation is more confused in Haiti, since neither party has been to court to settle the matter once and for all. The debate is on the radio and in the public space. The bands, including Ram, Brother’s Passey, Don Cato have been mocking the government for its so-called policy dubbed “a Loral” -- not being effective. The term “a Loral “has entered into the lexicon of the national psyche in a manner so deep that the easy way to insult someone is to stamp your argument as being “a Loral”.

There may be a convincing argument that the government might be offering free media coverage to the dissident group, since they occupy the media space in a manner that is not proportional to the value of their offering. On the other side, the government can plead it has offered a theme for the concept of the musical rendition for the Carnival: Tet Kole pour pousser Haiti devant -- Heads together to push Haiti forward. If you choose to frame your merengue outside of the canvas of the theme, it is customary in a competition of any kind, even in grammar school, that you will be rated with an F for failure.

The issue is whether a free and independent justice in Haiti would arrive at the same conclusion as the court in the United States in New York and in Boston. Can the government use its money to fund groups that take pleasure in demeaning the core of its policy, whether those policies are malignant or not. The Haitian young judicial system is showing signs of full independence. It has recently reviewed the decision in the case of Jean Claude Duvalier and has determined in appeal that the former president should respond to citizens who complain they were victims of human rights violations during his government.

In the United States, the newly minted mayor of New York City is threatening to boycott the annual St Patrick’s Day parade, which is by comparison as big as Mardi Gras in Rio, Port of Spain or recently Carnival in Gonaives. It will be a first for New York City because if the Catholic Church in the United State has one occasion to demonstrate its strength and its power, it is at the occasion of the St Patrick’s Day parade. There in full regalia, the cardinal of New York stands before his cathedral and pass in review the mayor, the politicians, and the thousands of revelers in jolly costumes who come from afar and from close to pay homage to St Patrick, the founding father of Ireland and by ricochet of New York City.

In Boston, a compromise has been found to let a group of homosexual to parade under a common denominator of diversity as long as they do not expose obvious artifacts that promote homosexuality.

In Haiti, the debate will continue after Ash Wednesday, the musical rendition of the dissident bands will play all year long during the year. The concept a Loral has not been dethroned by a much stronger one this year. The government has been working like Jean Jacques (a Haitian expression that means working very hard) to improve the life of the ordinary Haitian person.

In fact, my own personal observation as well as the one shared by the majority of independent observers is that the Martelly/Lamothe government has been one of the best that Haiti has enjoyed for the past 60 years.

Since the departure of the Paul Magloire government in 1957, the people of Haiti have endured a succession of predatory governments that cared less about its welfare. They included the Duvalier dynasty that forced the Haitian people to endure 33 years of dictatorial regime, the transitory civil and military governments that profited in cleaning the store during their short mandates and last the Lavalas regimes under Jean Bertrand Aristide and Rene Preval that promoted anarchy with a vengeance while leveling from the bottom as the preferred a way of governance for the last 25 years.

I would have preferred that the Martelly/Lamothe chose the concept of wealth creation for each and for all a la maniere of Singapore as its preferred modus operandi. The entire Latin American and Caribbean governments (with maybe Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados as exceptions) are guilty of the same policy of not engaging each citizen as a potential asset who should be incubated to produce wealth for him and for the state.

This issue is a global one; it will be the focus of another debate that will be explored in next week’s essay: Deconstructing the rise of the political explosion in Latin America. In the meantime, President Martelly has succeeded in stopping those who chose to make a mockery of himself in the parade in Gonaives. Will Bill De Blasio will march or not march on St Patrick’s Day in New York? Only the luck of the shamrock will tell!

In the meantime do enjoy the panoply of musical renditions of the different bands in Haiti. The carnival urban genre is over; you still can plan to visit Haiti from now until Good Friday to take part in its rural Carnival called Rara.
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