During frank and open discussions yesterday (February 21), at the Offices of the Prime Minister, between Jamaican officials and a Haitian fact finding delegation which had just arrived in the island, it was concluded that there were many misrepresentations of the treatment of the Haitian Under 17 CONCACAF Football Team.
The Haitian delegation which included representatives from the Ministries of Sports and Health, a representative from the Haitian Olympic Committee, a journalist, and Jamaica’s HonoraryConsul in Haiti, primarily wanted to know if the Haitian Footballers were: forced out of the CONCACAF competition; under physical, forcible restraint while in medical quarantine; under uniformed, armed guards, as reported by the president of the Haitian Football Federation.
Overall, it was concluded that there was much misrepresentation of the treatment of the Haitian Football Team, and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Dr. Kenneth Baugh, who emphasized that Haiti was Jamaica’s special friend, and Jamaica valued the friendship with Haiti, initially cleared the air on the Jamaican Health Protocols.
He also made the point that the meeting was an attempt to resolve issues resulting from the Haitian team’s disappointment from not being able to participate in the World Cup Under 17 qualifying event.
Jamaica’s health protocol followed
Dr Baugh stressed that the medical team acted in accordance with Jamaica’s health protocols. “However, I believe the experience at the hospital; the delays in getting their results and the fact that they didn’t get to play frustrated and disappointed the players,” said Dr. Baugh.
Following explanations of Jamaica’s Health protocol with regards to communicable diseases of international significance, the Haitian health representative, Gabriel Thimote’ noted that while Haiti did not quarantine suspected patients of Malaria, he had to “respect the national health procedural guidelines of Jamaica.” He added that their subsequent research has revealed that other Caribbean countries also observe similar health protocols to that of Jamaica.
Untrue allegations of Physical detention
In response to allegations that the Haitian footballers were physically detained by armed guards and put under forced quarantine at the hospital, the Hon. Babsy Grange, Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, and Doctors Marion DuCasse and Sheila Forrester from the Ministry of Health explained that the Haitian footballers broke quarantine; some discharged themselves from hospital, while one refused to be tested.
Dr. Forrester who admitted that the Cornwall Regional Hospital where they were first admitted had insufficient beds, made the point that the six team members at that time, who had displayed signs of Malaise, had discharged themselves from the Cornwall Regional Hospital. As she explained it, they were then admitted to the Falmouth Hospital to be treated. However they broke quarantine again, and some found themselves at the hotel, where it was suggested that the two footballers and one coach diagnosed with malaria, be quarantined in their hotel room.
Minister Grange therefore denied the claims that members from the football team were forcibly restrained, and explained that it was at this point where the footballers began shouting and banging on the table, that discussions broke down and the situation unraveled.
Tried scheduling alternative match
She also made the point that she tried to schedule an alternative CONCACAF match for the footballers, but at this time relations had disintegrated, with the president of the Haitian Football Federation expressing the view that he wanted to leave.
“They were sensitive. They thought we were discriminating against them. I even asked CONCACAF if there was any other way they could have played,” said Minister Grange.
The Haitian delegation was assured that the primary decision to advise the Haitian CONCACAF team to withdraw from the competition was the fact that with 14 members of the delegation (11 team members) exhibiting signs of Malaise, they could not field a team.
The Haitians however held maintained the view that there were still sufficient team members to play. Both sides however agreed that by that time, feelings of disappointment and anger dominated the Haitian team.
As proof of the continued goodwill between Jamaica and Haiti, Minister Grange informed the Haitians that she was in the planning stages of a friendly football match between both teams, and suggested that there be at least two friendly matches between both teams along with a concert, in Jamaica and in Haiti. The Haitians were receptive to the idea.
In closing the over two-hour long discussions, Dr. Baugh affirmed: “It should be obvious that Jamaica never intended for the Haitians to feel that they were subjected to discrimination. Our objective is to resolve and bridge the gap."
Issued by: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Foreign Trade