Tue | Jan 31, 2023

Haitian resilience

Published:Thursday | January 21, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Devon Dick

The recent strong earthquake will test the resolve of the Haitian people. They are not unaccustomed to natural disasters. In 2008, Haiti had four storms which killed 800 persons, nevertheless their economy grew. In addition, in 2006, Haiti had three per cent economic growth. In fact, in spite of the world recession, Haiti expe-rienced economic growth in 2007 and 2009.

Though Haiti is by no stretch of the imagination having a good per capita income for its citizens, these growth figures show resilience on their part. No other Caribbean country has faced so many historically monumental problems as Haiti.

During the 1830s, in the British West Indies, the planters were compensated £20 million by the British government for the loss of the ser-vices of the enslaved, while the Africans got nothing. But it was worse for Haiti. On the 21st anniversary of Haitian independence, the Haitian rulers asked for international recognition instead of the prevailing European embargo. France said that it would have to be compensated for the loss of its enslaved cargo and property. The Haitian leaders agreed and paid billions of dollars to France, with the last payment being made in 1925, some 97 years later. The Haitian people had to borrow money on the French money market to pay the debt!

Lest we forget, in 2005, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti was reportedly kidnapped by French and American troops and, to this day, there has been no international investigation and no one knows the truth or even cares. Remember it was then Prime Minister P.J. Patterson who offered Aristide exile over the objections of the United States of America but failed to raise a voice on Haiti's behalf in the Non-Aligned meeting. Remember that after Aristide made the first formal claim of billions of US dollars for reparations at a conference in Montego Bay, he was ousted! And, in spite of these setbacks, Haiti experienced economic growth.

Insensitive comment

It was therefore insensitive and inappropriate that in Haiti's great hour of need, Dr Jephthah Ford, in a television interview, was talking about keeping Haitians from our borders and the diseases that they can transmit. Thankfully, Prime Minister Bruce Golding, through decisive and compassionate early action, has set the tone for Jamaica's involvement and tremendous support for the people of Haiti.

Hopefully, many countries will use this opportunity to lavish aid on Haiti which would be compensation for its suffering from natural and man-made disasters and lack of reparations. Reparation is a desire for compensation to address the wrongs of enslavement so that countries and people, who have suffered and are still suffering from the consequences of slavery, will enjoy full freedom and develop along equal terms as all other ethnic groups. Biblically, it would be similar to the doctrine of restitution.


Hopefully, Ford will apologise for his ill directed nationalism and false sense of patriotism and follow the lead of our prime minister in offering material and moral support to the people of Haiti to the extent of coordinating the CARICOM efforts.

This earthquake and the resultant destruction provide an opportunity to the international community to address historic wrongs and present realities; to partner with the resilient Haitian people in building a peaceful and prosperous society.

Let us support the Haitian people in their hour of need.

FOOTNOTE: How could the resilient Shelly-Ann Fraser not win the Sportswoman Award for 2009 after winning two gold medals at the World Championships and running the then third-fastest time in history to win the 100m. She did this after a surgery in 2009! And she was not even the runner-up!

Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church and author of Rebellion to Riot: The Church in Nation Building. Feedback may be sent to columns@gleanerjm.com.