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Armour: Care, not sound bites, needed for Haiti


Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh, right, and St Augustine MP Khadijah Ameen laugh during the contribution of Naparima MP Rodney Charles, during a sitting of the House of Representatives, Red House, Port of Spain, on Friday. – Angelo Marcelle

ATTORNEY GENERAL Reginald Armour, SC, said on Friday the Government was trying to help Haiti, but that troubled nation must be addressed with care, not loud sound bites. He was wrapping up debate in the House of Representatives on his motion to extend the term of sanctions the House had approved last June against Haitian gang leader Jimmy Chérizier nicknamed “Barbecue.” The motion was approved.

The AG said Caricom had created an Eminent Persons Group (EPG) mandated to “facilitate dialogue and consensus-building among Haitian stakeholders with the aim of resolving the political impasse.” Armour said TT remains committed to this process.

The group members consist of three past prime ministers of Jamaica (Bruce Golding), the Bahamas (Perry Christie) and St Lucia (Dr Kenny Anthony).

He said the group was established by Caricom as guided by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley overseeing national security in the Caricom Quasi Cabinet.

The group works with Haitian stakeholders to help them resolve their political impasse, the AG said.

“It is a delicate, careful process that has to be engaged in with resolve, with will, and quietly,” he said, “not to be shouted for sound bite purposes from rooftops and empty barrels.” He rejected claims the Government was doing nothing about Haiti, citing the day’s order and its predecessor order last June.

“The fact is there are processes that have been drafted, court processes, that rely on this resolution being passed, so that when the applications are made to the court, this resolution will be referenced in those court applications.

“I’m not about to say in relation to whom, because I don’t want to alert those persons.”

Armour cited a previous Government statement welcoming Kenya’s offer to send 1,000 police officers to Haiti and to provide leadership to the security contingent.

He alleged Princes Town MP Barry Padarath’s earlier contribution as being “fundamentally flawed.”

Rejecting opposition claims that TT was treating Venezuelan migrants better than Haitians, the AG said visitors from both countries actually need visas to enter TT (without referencing the Venezuelan migrant registration card).

Earlier, Naparima MP Rodney Charles asked why MPs were again debating the order previously passed, when in Canada the order persisted without needing renewal.

“Doing the same thing over and over. A lot of song and fury signifying nothing.”

Charles perceived a lack of progress in help given to Haiti.

“We dealt with this before. We are not doing enough for Haiti. Haiti has been a member of Caricom since 2002.”

He said TT was obliged to Haiti under UN resolution UNSCR 2653(2022) and both nations links geographically, demographically, psychographically, and historically.

Charles cited recent news reports on Haiti.

He quoted, “Gangs have seized control of up to 80 per cent of Port-au-Prince, killing, raping and sowing terror in communities already suffering endemic poverty. “There was a surge in violence in parts of Haiti’s capital that pushed over 3,000 people to flee their homes.”

Charles said this was “a crisis in a fellow Caricom State.”

“We are talking about urgency, we are talking about women getting raped, we are talking breakdown of total law and order.

“We are talking about mass killings and distress. A crisis.”

Asking why MPs were again discussing Haiti after House debates last June, he said the Government was proficient at wasting time.

“How will extending these economic sanctions help our Caricom neighbour? What is TT doing beyond them?”

Charles wondered whether the EPG was just “a talk shop”.

Dubbing the Caricom crime symposium in TT “a $3.8 million talk shop” that did nothing to cut crime, he hit, “We are good at talking, discussing, engaging, reviewing and analysing, but what are we actively doing?

“What action are we taking to make significant change in Haiti’s situation?”

Charles praised the input into Haiti by Brazil, Canada, France, Cuba and others, but lamented “little by Caricom.”

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“When invited to visit Haiti on the third occasion, I declined. Too much poverty, too much crime. No rule of law being observed.

“Too many women washing clothes in rivers and drains. Too much hopelessness No improvement.

“It is only so much the soul can bear.”

He hailed Canada for last November for sanctioning 21 more persons over kidnapping, illegal trafficking of firearms and drugs, customs fraud, and supporting gangs in Haiti. Charles said Royal Canadian Navy positioned vessels off the coast of Haiti to conduct surveillance, gather intelligence and maintain a presence.

He reckoned Canada might finance the deployment of Caricom troops in Haiti.

“By its actions and utterances Canada seems willing to find solutions that will restore order and security and create the conditions for free and fair elections.

“It seems as though other countries are more concerned with Haiti and their well-being than this PNM Government.”

Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds chided Charles’ speech as “a comedy.” Addressing Charles’ concerns about a need to renew the order, he said Friday’s motion said, “the order shall remain in force until such time as it is revoked.” He urged people to read CLR James’ book, The Black Jacobins, noting that Haiti’s troubles have existed since 1804. He accused the UNC of once protesting against Venezuelan migrants and being unsympathetic to hurricane-ravaged Dominica.

Recalling attacks on Haiti’s police and army, Hinds warned that was an example to countries like TT of what was possible when such institutions were not upheld.

He said the Government via Caricom was acting “properly, legally and constitutionally” on Haiti. Sanctions should only be imposed “with precision”, so as to minimally impact ordinary people who were already suffering.

Princes Town Barry Padarath said the Government’s position on sending Caricom troops into Haiti should be publicly known. He said Haiti needs an intervention, to restore peace, security and justice. He said the problems in Haiti were known but asked what had the government done towards a solution.

“They have done absolutely nothing.” Padarath said lessons about sanctions could be learnt from Cuba.

“While you cripple the people needing help, very little change has come, apart from making massive amounts of poverty.”