Tue | Dec 5, 2023

PM pledges help for Haiti

Police, army could be part of international delegation

Published:Wednesday | February 1, 2023 | 1:34 AM
Prime Minister Andrew Holness delivers a statement on Haiti’s security situation during Tuesday’s sitting of the House of Representatives.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness delivers a statement on Haiti’s security situation during Tuesday’s sitting of the House of Representatives.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness signalled on Tuesday that Jamaica’s security forces could be part of a regional delegation to support efforts by the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) bloc to stabilise gang-ravaged Haiti.

Holness told the House of Representatives that the descent into political and economic chaos of Jamaica’s neighbour was 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 in opening comments.

He told the House of Representatives that the situation had escalated to dangerous proportions with the killing of several policemen recently.

The prime minister reiterated the condemnation by CARICOM and extended condolences to the families of the fallen officers. He said the recent round of violence has left Haiti’s five million population facing acute hunger.

Violent deaths and cholera-related fatalities continue to pose challenges to Haiti’s fragile health sector, which Holness said have triggered several emergency crises in a country that has been crippled by political instability for decades.

Jamaica, he said, restated its preparedness to support a united international effort in response to the crisis, which deteriorated in the wake of the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise.

Holness said that he endorsed efforts being contemplated by the Organisation of American States (OAS) towards a solution.

Outside of that collective, specific bilateral support has been discussed, including electoral reform, capacity building, and logistics. Jamaica is prepared to host Haitian representatives in that regard.

“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,” the prime minister told colleague lawmakers.

“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,” he stated.

According to the prime minister, 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.

Against that backdrop, Holness said Jamaica reaffirmed its commitment to working with CARICOM and bilateral partners such as Canada and the USA, as well as Latin American and African nations, towards achieving sustainable solutions in Haiti.

In a press statement issued last Saturday, CARICOM said the bloc was deeply concerned about the severity of the challenges being faced by police 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. The anger and dismay of the police at the gruesome killings of their colleagues, 78 killed since July 2021 and 14 to date this January, are shared by all,” the secretariat said.

The regional grouping, however, urged the security forces not to abandon their role of maintaining public order, cautioning that that action would further destabilise the country.