THE call by the Trinidad and Tobago Government for regional “mediation” with the Dominican Republic over a new law that would effectively “denationalise’’ thousands of people of Haitian descent living there, was scheduled for discussion as a matter of urgent importance yesterday by the governing council of the Organisation of American States (OAS).
In this column on October 15, I reported Foreign Minister Winston Dookeran as urging the mediation process and also the issuing by Vincentian Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves of a personal appeal to DR President Danilo Medina for the Dominican government to urgently review the judgment by the DR’s constitutional court.
Trinidad and Tobago was expected to be involved in yesterday’s OAS governing council meeting in Washington. And Foreign Minister Dookeran has stressed that in urging the mediation process, the T&T government was quite aware of the need to recognise established norms of national sovereignty.
Ironically, while the administration in Port of Spain was cautiously employing the language of diplomacy in urging mediation for an urgent review of the constitutional court’s ruling, the Tobago House of Assembly was collaborating with the embassy of the Dominican Republic in T&T for a one-day “sustainable tourism” conference.
As if unaware or unmindful of the grave implications of the DR’s court ruling for thousands of people of Haitian descent, the THA kept its silence while advertising the conference on “Developing Tobago’s Sustainable Tourism Potential”.
However, since its involvement with the DR’s embassy in Port of Spain for the conference had a foreign policy dimension, it is to be wondered whether there was any collaboration between the THA and the Foreign Ministry in Port of Spain.
Even if that is relevant, arrangements were underway prior to the evidently retrograde ruling by the DR’s constitutional court. That ruling has since been denounced by the United Nations Human Rights Office, as well as subsequently deemed “an affront to those committed to justice” by Caricom’s Secretary General Irwin LaRocque.
Earlier this week I received a communication from the well known and respected Dominican economist, Prof Miguel Ceara-Hatton, in which he made a passionate case against the constitutional court’s judgment.
He feels that President Medina should face up to his responsibility and involve parliament in blocking implementation of this controversial law that demeans citizens of the DR.
Author of various books and articles on the Dominican Republic and Caribbean economies in general, Ceara-Hatton contends that it is intellectually insulting for President Medina to simply offer a “pathetic official statement” when he has clearly failed to take relevant action consistent with the country’s constitution.
In his reaction to the court’s judgment, President Medina said that “the state is sensitive to the plight of those who consider themselves Dominican and who believe their rights are affected as consequence of this ruling… Here is a human problem that we must solve.”
But as analysed by Ceara-Hatton, a former president of the Association of Caribbean Economists, the plight of denationalisation now being faced by the many thousands of people of Haitian descent is a “fundamental human rights” issue.
He contends that the problem could well be addressed both within the context of the DR’s constitution and in co-operation with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights since the country is party to the 1969 Convention on Human Rights which it signed in 1977.
As he sees it, this is not a “human problem” as glossed over by the DR President Medina, but “an issue of human rights that the Dominican state seeks to ignore...”
We must, therefore, await the outcome of the meeting of the OAS governing council to learn how the hemispheric organisation intends to address the problem—via regional mediation—as proposed by this country’s government—or otherwise!