By Marcia Braveboy
Caribbean News Now Senior Correspondent
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad -- Haiti’s President Michel Martelly said Haiti will not sever trading ties with the Dominican Republic in light of the chaos created by the September 23 constitutional court ruling, which renders stateless over 200,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent.
Caribbean News Now put the question to Martelly at a news conference held following a special Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Bureau meeting in Port of Spain on Tuesday, chaired by Trinidad and Tobago’s prime minister and current chair of CARICOM Kamla Persad-Bissessar. St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves and CARICOM Secretary-General Irwin LaRocque were also part of the bureau meeting.
President Michel Martelly
“Never! We are called to share this island and we both want the relations to be good; that’s why we prioritise dialogue,” Martelly emphasised.
Haiti’s trade with the Dominican Republic is worth almost two billion dollars annually. Severing such ties would be a tremendous loss to the Dominican Republic. Martelly, along with the other heads of CARICOM, continues to hold out an olive branch in one hand while applying pressure with the other. Haiti’s insistence, though, is to take the lead in defending people’s rights, explained Martelly.
“But of course every time that the rule of law is violated, people’s rights are violated… we have to take responsibility, for two reasons, first of all, we have to admit that they are Dominicans but of Haitian descent, so they are related to our Diaspora, and secondly, we all know that Haiti has taken the lead in defending people’s rights. We have walked round with Latin American with the flame of liberty, helping our brothers and sisters. We have liberated our race, so it’s an obligation for us to stand by people, by countries who are oppressed,” he said.
Agreeing with Martelly’s position on prioritising dialogue, Persad Bissessar said they cannot pressure the Dominican Republic all at once.
“If we want to put pressure on the Dominican Republic, it is not necessary that we shoot all our guns on the same day…” she said.
The CARICOM chair outlined a list of steps the Dominican Republic must take if it does not want the diplomatic doors to close and stay shut; among them, the Dominican Republic was asked to develop “within 90 days a national plan for the regularisation of illegal aliens and then to implement the plan.”
“We are considering whether we seek to sever diplomatic ties, there are a lot of other options but we felt this will be our first salvo… we await Dominican Republic, as I indicated before we are willing to engage with them in dialogue, but they have to show good faith as well,” Persad Bissessar said.
On September 23, 2013, the constitutional court in the Dominican Republic ruled that persons born in that country after 1929 who are of Haitian descent and are the children of illegal immigrants will not be termed citizens of the Dominican Republic. Essentially over 200,000 persons are rendered stateless by this ruling.
Martelly said Haiti is in discussions with the Dominican Republic and they are supposed to meet again by the end of this week, although separate reports now indicate that further meetings may have been cancelled by the Dominican Republic.
“But we might wonder if this meeting will happen, as we don’t want to keep on meeting without feeling them showing that good faith, we want some actions” Martelly insisted.
The Haitian president said UN rights organisations and some political leaders in Haiti are furious about the situation surrounding the Dominican Republic ruling, but it’s very important that the Haiti government remain calm so as to not create chaos in the situation, which Martelly said is already confusing.
Martelly said some 300 Haitians were repatriated just last weekend, with newborn babies among them.
Persad Bissessar spoke of parents having to give up newborn children just so they can get a birth certificate.
“So the situation is really… one that reminds me of something that you could not believe is happening right here in the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea – because it is impossible to believe the hardships and more to come…” the CARICOM chair said.
Gonsalves said CARICOM is willing to engage Dominican Republic, but only in good faith and, in a biblical reference, he asserted that “faith without works is dead,” stressing the need for the Dominican Republic to operate in good faith.