Commentary: President Michel Joseph Martelly: An assessment four years later


By Jean H Charles

It is not a secret of la polichinelle that I have been an early supporter of Michel Martelly as president of Haiti. I am voting for Michel Martelly and I am voting again for Michel Martelly

Jean H Charles LLB, MSW, JD is a syndicated columnist with Caribbean News Now. He can be reached at: [email protected] and followed for past essays at Caribbeannewsnow/Haiti

I have followed this president with regular assessments of his presidency for the past four years. I am still convinced that, for the past 60 years, since the demise of President Paul E Magloire, in spite of the popular convulsion against the present regime, Haiti has not had it so good. Yet, if I am wrong, I defy my critics to give me the names of three presidents that were better than this one, I lower the standard to two, and I would even lowered the standard to one to accept the verdict of touché!

Yet the problems of Haiti are so severe and so acute that if the country has to endure another government so light in policy planning and in understanding of the magnitude of, and the solution to the Haitian problems, the nation would fall down like a sick person from whom a life support machine has been disconnected.

Speaking to the regular person on the street, the misery, the hunger, the desperation is on all fronts. I am in contact with the rich sector of the population, from whom I am often asking relief for the poor sector, the sentiment is the same: the country is not moving forward in spite of the hoopla that Haiti is open for business.

The problems of Haiti precede this government, and I have often encapsulated them in three aspects:

– the lack of the sense of appurtenance to move rural Haiti forward and at the same time get the country’s locomotive moving;

– the complete deterioration of the environment without major initiatives to stop the destruction of its physical settings;

– and the intergenerational misery of the majority of the population!

To these one must add a fourth one:

– the politicking of every aspect of Haitian life, leaving no room for the economy, education, the science or the arts to breathe fully, bringing energy and sustenance to the population.

In our modern time, it all started with the presidency of Dumarsais Estimé in 1946, who initiated the populist style of governing, as such injecting politics into the arts and science of the executive administration.

The Standard Fruit Company was very satisfied with Haitian bananas. In fact, Haiti, in spite of its special and interesting status of no landed estate plantations, could deliver better organic bananas and in larger quantities fit for export than the whole of Latin America. Slowly, the Haitian peasant was enriching himself through that scheme, with the foreign company buying directly from the farmer.

For political reasons, Estime organized national points of sale, giving the franchise to well-connected politicians or aspiring senators, and the whole deal fell through. They delivered non exportable produce and they sometimes took the money without delivering the goods.

Haiti lost its banana production and export until today. (It was reported just recently in the Nouvelliste that Haiti has just put in motion its capacity to start de novo exporting bananas.

It was the beginning of the pauperization of rural Haiti and the exodus to the cities and to Cuba, the Dominican Republic and The Bahamas. President Martelly has followed the Duvalier, Aristide and Preval regimes into the same fatal mistake.

He has one of the unique opportunities of making Haiti moving into true development. He had no debt to any political constituency’ in fact, even Repons Peyizan, the party under which he won his presidency, was treated as an orphan.

Not running regular legislative and mayoral elections on time, he had the opportunity to appoint the best men or the finest women from the homeland or the Diaspora, who are willing to devote their time, their talent and their treasure for the common good. Instead he has selected some of the worst political junkies he could have found, with few exceptions like the mayor of Petionville, Minerve Yvanka Jolicoeur Brutus, or the mayor of Delmas, Wilson Jeudy; political officers but yet very efficient and able mayors for their towns.

In the matter of social welfare, the president and his government, in particular the Lamothe administration, opted for the politics of sustenance instead of the politics of wealth creation. The poor in Haiti have always been in the majority and, by choosing a policy of handouts, the state coffers have or would succumb to the weight of those in need, in addition to being a self-destructive policy, since a dependency is created and maintained.

The independent institutions such as FAES, created either to bring in money into the state coffers or to spend money wisely to create wealth within the population has been used as a cottage industry, where friends and the lackeys have enriched themselves while displaying the signs of privilege and anointment with arrogance and indecency.

On the other hand, Haiti, after its brush with democracy in 1987, is in the same position as the Arab nations that enjoyed the Arab Spring in 2009. The people have learned their rights but they have not been taught their responsibilities. The vociferous opposition has interfered with the right of the government to rule and the right of the majority of the people to conduct their daily business life in peace and in stability. It has been four years of acrimony, social upheaval but in a free, even disorderly abuse of the freedom of expression.

The Martelly government was not strong enough to teach the limits of the rule of freedom of expression and the beginning of the right of the individual and of the state not to be disturbed by those who want to express their displeasure with governmental policies.

It has been four years of propaganda and marketing of a government that chose to play the politics of electioneering instead of the politics of nation building. The Parliament was not doing better; in fact both institutions were competing for the marketplace, blocking necessary legislation when it was in their benefit to do so and blaming the executive on initiatives that were in their power to deliver, such as the law on funding universal schooling, the law for legislative and mayoral elections.

The big loser was the Haitian people, who lost confidence in the country and in its government. Stay for a while in front of the Brazilian consulate in Petionville, the crowd that wants to leave the country includes college students, domestic workers and the whole gamut of different sectors of the society.

The exhaustion of the large Haitian migrant population in the Dominican Republic and in The Bahamas is showing clear signs of country fatigue with the immigrant population. One young Haitian-Dominican was hanged colonial style, flags were burned on both sides of the fence. Several trucks of Dominican goods entering Haiti were seized at the border. Diplomatic posturing with armed soldiers on the Dominican side and large demonstrations on the Haitian side only added fuel to the flames.

The year 2015 will be an electoral year for the Haitian people to choose a brand new president, 20 senators, 118 legislators, 140 mayors, and 570 rural county chiefs, necessitating 60 million vote bulletins and 120,000 sworn testimonies, at a cost of $40 million.

Haiti has never experienced such a large civic undertaking in a country where the virtues and sentiments of a good citizen are at the lowest point. It will need the recent Indian experience of such a big election process for that delivery to be smooth instead of a difficult caesarian.

The transition in Haiti has always been the gatekeeper of foreign hands interested in the status quo in Haiti. The election of 1987 was disrupted by the national army under instructions of a foreign nation breaking the innocent mode of the Haitian ethos that politics is not a clean endeavour but a dirty game.

Big money has been spent since by the political parties and the candidates to win the executive or the legislative posts. Enriching oneself through politics is now the rule of the game. The present government, like the Preval administration, will try to use the state coffers to have its candidates win the election.

The people will give their response in disgust and maybe Haiti will awaken on February 7, 2016, with a government that will end its perpetual nightmare. Or it will continue with plus ca change plus c’est la meme chose – the more things change more they are the same – with a revised edition of the same old ones. The Good Friday of the people of Haiti will continue without the hope of an Easter Sunday.

Or the people will awake and take their fate in their own hands and reproduce January 1, 1804, the day of the independence from slavery, or February 7, 1987, the day of deliverance from the yoke of dictatorship!



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