KINGSTON, Jamaica, Feb 1, CMC – The Jamaica government says it is “willing to participate in a multinational security assistance deployment to Haiti” which is going through a period of political turbulence and economic and social difficulty, aggravated by a climate of insecurity fuelled by armed criminal groups.
Haiti’s Prime Minister Dr. Ariel Henry has called on countries within the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), “especially those who can” help deal with the ongoing socio-economic and political situation in his French-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country.
He said to deal with this situation, his administration urged the international community to participate in a specialised multinational force to help the Haitian security forces to fight against the proliferation of organised crime, the illicit trafficking of arms and ammunition, and eradicate the gangs that have held the country hostage.
Last week, United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres reiterated his urgent appeal to member states understand the urgency of acting quickly to support the solutions chosen by Haitian actors.
Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness told legislators that Jamaica’s security forces could be part of the initiative and that the situation in the member CARICOM country is a source of worry for his administration and the entire region.
“The Government of Jamaica and indeed the people of Jamaica, even with our own challenges and concerns, are deeply concerned about the humanitarian and security crisis being experienced by our Caribbean neighbour and sister nation Haiti.
“The people of Haiti continue to have their human rights threatened by powerful gangs and militias which perpetrate heinous crimes including killings, kidnappings and acts of violence against women and children,” said Holness, noting that the situation in Port au Prince had escalated to dangerous proportions with the murder of several policemen recently.
CARICOM has said it is “deeply concerned” that the contrasting incidents involving the Haitian national Police indicate the severity of the challenges that the police face as well as further breakdown in security in Haiti.
“CARICOM strongly condemns the killing of police officers and expresses its condolences to the families of the officers who lost their lives in the line of duty.”
Holness said Jamaica has restated its preparedness to support a united international effort in response to the crisis, which deteriorated in the wake of the July 7, 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise.
He said he endorses the efforts being contemplated by the Organisation of American States (OAS) towards a solution.
“In addition, Jamaica would be willing to participate in a multinational security assistance deployment to Haiti under the appropriate jurisdictional parameters to support a return to a reasonable level of stability and peace which would be necessary … for any democratic process to take root.
“Both the Jamaica Constabulary Force and Jamaica Defence Force have been alerted to this possible course of support and they would have started to plan for such eventuality as part of their routine situational awareness and response readiness,” Holness added.
He told legislators that thousands of Haitian children, especially those living in gang-dominated areas, have yet to return to school, and there are increasing reports of minors being recruited by criminal organisations.
Holness said Jamaica reaffirmed its commitment to working with CARICOM and bilateral partners such as Canada and the United States as well as Latin American and African nations, towards achieving sustainable solutions in Haiti.
Last week, Helen La Lime, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Haiti, told the UN Security Council that Haiti’s protracted political and humanitarian crises, marked by spiking levels of gang-related violence and a badly struggling national police force, were reversing crucial security and development strides made since the devastating 2010 earthquake.
“Years of hard-fought recovery gains are being undone, and Haitians are grappling with setting the country back on a path to democracy,” La Lime said, noting that more than 2,100 murders and an estimated 1,300 kidnappings were reported last year and gang violence overall reached levels not seen in decades.
She said turf wars involving two gang coalitions, namely the G9 coalition and G-Pep, reached unprecedented levels in several neighbourhoods of Cité Soleil.
Opposition Leader, Mark Golding told Parliament that there is no doubt the situation in Haiti is of huge interest to Jamaica, “given the proximity of Jamaica to the shores of Haiti.
“It is clearly in Jamaica’s interest for Haiti to be restored to a functional democratic system of government, and that security within Haiti and of its borders be put on a footing where criminal elements, organised and disorganised, do not hold sway,” Golding said.
He warned of the possibility of Jamaica being destabilise as a result of the situation in Haiti “given that they have already established the guns for drugs trade and other nefarious activities of that nature is an alarming prospect for us”.