Not under our watch
The official voice of Trinidad and Tobago has remained relatively muted, even as an international tide of condemnation surges against last month’s constitutional court ruling that voided the citizenship rights of hundreds of thousands of people born in the Dominican Republic to Haitian parents from as far back as 1929.
St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, in “robustly” plain-spoken remarks addressed to Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina, has joined former Jamaican prime minister PJ Patterson and Amnesty International in denouncing the ruling and calling for corrective measures. The ruling, condemned as racist in motivation and as abominable in implementation as apartheid, deserves to be unreservedly damned and blasted. It is especially repugnant, coming from a country that shares membership with Trinidad and Tobago in the Cariforum group, and which has been reportedly seeking membership in Caricom, of which Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar is current chairman.
Of note here is Mrs Persad-Bissessar’s meeting last week with Haiti’s Foreign Minister, His Excellency, Pierre-Richard Casimir. It was to the credit of no one that Mrs Persad-Bissessar, the sitting chairman of Caricom, would choose to meet with Mr Casimir at the constituency office of MP Chandresh Sharma in Fyzabad in a clear demonstration of her priorities during the local government election campaign.
The statements subsequently issued from her office and from the Caricom Secretariat were, to say the least, lukewarm to the point of irrelevant. It is incredible that Caricom’s own statement could be so at odds with the statement issued by Prime Minister Gonsalves.
At the very least, if Caricom is serious about its representation of Haiti’s interest, it should make clear that, while the anti-Haitian de-nationalisation law remains in force, the Dominican Republic stands no chance of being welcomed in Caricom. Moreover, normally outspoken T&T civil society groups should not hesitate to communicate the abhorrence of ordinary citizens toward Dominican Republic laws and practices that victimise people from sister Caricom state, Haiti.
The rights of generations of people of Dominican Republic birth who are of Haitian descent is as clear-cut as any issue could be. There is absolutely no need for pussyfooting with it as the language of the statements issued by the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago and Caricom would suggest.
Now that Mrs Persad-Bissessar is no longer distracted by the election campaign, we would urge her, as the chairperson of Caricom, to turn her attention to this issue and to exercise the full authority of her office in assuming leadership in this matter.
The Dominican Republic must feel the full force of the wrath and outrage of Caribbean people. We remember the abomination of the 1937 Peregil massacre in which an estimated 20,000 people of Haitian descent were killed in a matter of two weeks by the Trujillo regime in the Dominican Republic. In 2013, we do not intend to sit idly by and allow another purging to occur. Not under our watch.
We therefore call on Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, as the chairperson of Caricom, to lead the charge against this outrage.