An opportunity for a new Haiti
THE EDITOR, Sir:
I recall having read in a post-earthquake January issue of
The Sunday Gleaner
a memoriam in which the middle name 'Toussant' somehow invoked Toussaint L'Ouverture (where an 'i' tends to more commonly seen) and his part in the heroic struggle for freedom in St Domingue. 'What's in a name?'
Little 'reminders' such as this when set alongside more targeted news and commentary of recent weeks and a general reading of Haitian history may encourage reflection on unrealised hopes and what, nevertheless, has remained possible.
Haiti needs a chance to move forward and there is now an opportunity for the world community of nations to transfer the generally very positive energy devoted to the earthquake relief effort to a comprehensive development programme that raises especially the most oppressed sectors of the population. This is not only about the thrust to rebuild or 'rise again', but rather more about 'rising higher' - to borrow a few words from a new song performed by a varied collection of Caribbean musicians as part of the contribution to the relief fund-raising drive.
Prior to the devastating January 12 earthquake and even the hurricane lashing of two seasons ago, Haiti already desperately needed a major rescue effort. Earthquakes and hurricanes cannot be stopped in their tracks by human effort, but collaborative efforts that improve preparedness and response can ensure reduced loss of life and property. However, natural disasters and a readiness for them are only part of the story.
French and United States (US) governments' complicity that ensured the collection of unwarranted debt or saw overt or covert political intervention has guided what I would refer to as the persisting anti-Haitian alliance, thereby blighting the country's development prospects. External 'others' and domestic collaborators such as puppet dictatorial regimes led by 'Papa Doc' and 'Baby Doc' Duvalier have further underwritten the country's man-made problems.
The Haiti that is possible even after untold misfortune and obstruction can emerge by drawing on the earthquake relief momentum to engage a sustained comprehensive long-term development programme unencumbered by old bad habits which should be resolutely contested.
During Nicolas Sarkozy's February visit - reportedly the first by a French president - a broken people were told that France would write off the equivalent of millions of US dollars (not billions) in debt that Haiti is said to have owed. By then, the US administration had assumed the overall control in the immediate recovery effort and I suspect that many in CARICOM would want to assume that the big neighbour's role would be reflected on a brand new slate.
Chávez's Venezuela gave the commitment to write off a large oil debt. Jamaica and the wider CARICOM have continued to be stalwart contributors to the relief process for the community's fallen member and seem to be looking beyond relief for a better future. Cuba, known for the comprehensiveness of its health-care system, has had a multitude of trained professionals in Haiti. China and South Korea, African nations, Canada and others have also rallied in support in the multi-pronged effort alongside locals. The United Nations has had a voice.
The opportunity is ripe for the picking. A socially and politically stable Haiti with a thriving economy would be better for the Caribbean region and serve as a monument to the world community.
I am, etc.,
PAUL E. MARTIN
Mannings Hill District