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Troops prepping for Haiti

The Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) has started making preparations for a mission to Haiti amid ongoing gang violence in the French-speaking country’s capital, Port-Au-Prince, multiple Gleaner sources have confirmed.

The deployment is to take place in the coming weeks though it is not clear whether it will form part of a joint mission with other CARICOM member states.

On Wednesday, a number of JDF personnel underwent medicals, said to be in preparation for the mission, one Gleaner source confirmed, while a high-level meeting got under way among senior military personnel at Up Park Camp.

“It’s a go,” the Gleaner source said. “[But] we haven’t received a hard date.”

The development comes as Kenya prepares to lead a multinational force into the CARICOM country with escalating violence between armed gangs and police fuelling a humanitarian crisis that has displaced tens of thousands of people.

Last month, 37 Haitians landed in Portland after fleeing the anarchy in their homeland. The 28 adults among them were convicted of illegal entry and the group was set to be deported. However, the Government has since received an asylum request, putting on hold plans for their immediate removal.

Kenya has announced that it will send 1,000 police officers while The Bahamas on Tuesday pledged to send 150 people in support if a United Nations Security Council resolution put forward by the United States is approved.

Last night, Myrtha Désulmé, founder and president of the Haiti-Jamaica Society, expressed unease with any planned military intervention.

“It’s not a good move. What Haiti needs is not another disastrous military intervention masquerading as a humanitarian mission. The US and UN who have such a catastrophic track record in Haiti are looking for political cover from CARICOM, Canada, Jamaica, Kenya, whoever they can get it from, for a military intervention ... [to] blindly carry out the foreign agenda against the will and interests of the Haitian people,” she charged.

“So if Jamaica and CARICOM are seeking stability in Haiti, that plan will bring no stability,” Désulmé added.

She said that what is needed is CARICOM solidarity for the effective application of the UN Security Council’s Resolution 2653 to stem the flow of guns into Haiti, which will render the gangs inoperative.

“We need CARICOM to be honest brokers in removing the corrupt government in place, and creating a consensus government of national unity, who have no ties to gangs or criminality. We need a plan to vet, train and equip the Haitian police for a disarmament campaign, to eliminate the guns remaining on the ground,” she said.

Not enough being done

Months ago, a senior member of the Holness administration told The Gleaner that Jamaica could not deploy troops because there was no agreement in place between the two countries.

“The region has to find a legal peg on which to hang the decision. It’s either you’re going in as a peacekeeping force or you’re going in for security. What exactly [would be] the basis on which we’re going in?” the official, who had requested anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the issue, told our newsroom then.

“Yes, they are having problems, but what do you think will happen if we send our men there and they come back in a body bag? Besides, it’s expensive. You’re talking about sending 30 men there. That’s about $1 million per day,” the official added.

The official expressed concern, however, that not enough was being done by developed states to assist Haiti.

“Whether or not we want to accept it, it’s at a very delicate stage and it is democracy that will suffer. And you know once democracy starts suffering what will happen? People are going to run. Some of us who think that we are nice and secure will start feeling the pressure,” the official warned.