Sat | Dec 9, 2023

Letter of the Day | Jamaica shouldn’t look the other way on Haiti

Published:Tuesday | August 2, 2022 | 12:06 AM


Having lived and worked in Haiti for over 10 years, I am constrained to offer a perspective on the importance of Haiti to us in Jamaica. The history of Haiti over the past 500 years has run a similar course to Jamaica’s. Haitians are a proud, resourceful, resilient and determined lot, ever pushing to better themselves and build a just, free, developed and peaceful society.

Like many post-colonial countries, Haiti has to be grappling with problems inimical to its human development on all fronts. Right now, Haiti is extremely wounded, hurting and desperately needing relief from its multiplicity of complex challenges.

Haitian lives matter to us, first because of our common humanity. Haiti is our neighbour. We must resist the temptation to be like the proverbial self-righteous priests and Levites, who saw a robbed, beaten and wounded man lying by the road but chose to turn their eyes and pass by on the other side.

Second, Haiti matters to us as it relates to our health and security. For example, the environmental degradation and pollution issues from poor garbage disposal, especially of non-biodegradables, washing into the sea all along Haiti’s western shores, are already finding their way here. If remained unchecked, they will have a deleterious effect on our marine life and fisheries, and, ultimately, also our tourism. Again, for example, the growth and proliferation of violent gangsterism in Haiti, if not urgently addressed, will continue to increasingly help to fuel crime problems in Jamaica.

Third, Haiti’s population of over 11 million is larger than the rest of the English-speaking Caribbean. A well-educated, secure, politically stable, industrialised and thriving Haiti, fully integrated into CARICOM, provides vast opportunities for trade and investments. These can be in agriculture/agribusiness, housing, tourism, and institutional development.

We have got to bend down and help, like the Good Samaritan would. We have to be our Haitian brothers’ keeper. We must respectfully partner with them in areas of their choosing, and respect the fact that Haiti’s problems will only be sustainably solved by Haitians. We must first listen and then take action.

Anyone can partner with, and help fund, reputable organisations working for human development in Haiti. All of us can lobby our parliamentary representatives to have a foreign policy approach to represent and advance Haitian developmental interest. Our intellectuals and those concerned with restorative justice can, and should, ensure that Haiti is at the centre of the global movement for reparations, because the so-called indemnity Haiti paid to France up to the 1940s, valuing billions of US dollars in today’s money, represents a unique case of gross international extortion.

To look away and pretend we are, or will be, unaffected by developments, good or bad, in Haiti is illusionary.