Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Hon. Olivia Grange has sought to clarify the issues surrounding the Haitian team’s withdrawal from the recently concluded CONCACAF under 17 football championship staged in Montego Bay, St. James.
Speaking in the House of Representatives at Gordon House, yesterday (March 1), the Minister said that the news of Haiti’s withdrawal from the tournament has been the subject of controversy, especially in Port-au-Prince, where there were street protests based on misrepresentations and misinformation.
“The Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture has been involved in the dialogue as both Governments moved to end the protests and to preserve and strengthen the centuries old bonds of friendship between both countries,” Minister Grange said.
She said the Government regretted the circumstances that necessitated the withdrawal of the Haitian team from the CONCACAF tournament. “I understand the pain felt by the Haitian delegation and the people of Haiti, particularly the young players,” Miss Grange said.
The Haitian team had to withdraw from the tournament after health officials confirmed three players were ailing from malaria.
In correcting some inaccuracies that have been reported about the treatment of the Haitian delegation, especially over the 72-hour period beginning February 14, Minister Grange noted that Jamaica did not single out the Haitian delegation for screenings at the airport.
“As a routine, passengers from Latin America, South-East Asia, Africa, Republic of Haiti and the Dominican Republic are asked to fill out questionnaires and report about any abnormal symptoms on their arrival in Jamaica,” she explained.
Miss Grange further noted that there were no armed guards or armed thugs intimidating or restraining any member of the Haitian football contingent.
“Two women police officers – a Senior Superintendent and an assistant – were present at the hotel for a maximum of 45 minutes on Tuesday, February 15, 2011. They wore civilian attire. They were not armed and at no time did they interact with any of the players. No one was ever handcuffed,” the Minister assured.
She further informed that it was not a restrictive quarantine and that each member of the delegation was provided with food and had access to medicine, both at the hospital and in the hotel where most of the affected members of the delegation remained.
“The Government of Jamaica did not expel the Haitian football team. The decision for the Haitian football team to withdraw was taken by the President of the Haitian Football Federation in consultation with CONCACAF,” she pointed out.
Following these events, Minister Grange noted that the Government of Haiti sent a special delegation to Jamaica on a fact-finding mission, between the 21st and 23rd of February. The delegation had meetings in Kingston and Montego Bay with Government officials and other dignitaries.
“The delegation was given access to the Cornwall Regional Hospital to view the facilities and interview staff; and also viewed the facilities at the hotel where the football contingent resided and met with the manager of the property,” Miss Grange said.
Through those meetings and inspections, the delegation was able to get a full understanding of the events as they really happened, Minister Grange informed.
She said that based on the report of this special delegation, Haiti’s President Rene Preval, gave Prime Minister Bruce Golding the assurance at the CARICOM Heads of Government meeting in Grenada, that the matter was now closed.
“We are pleased that the misunderstandings have been clarified and the matter resolved,” she said.
She said that the Government was moving to arrange football matches between both countries “as we continue efforts to preserve and strengthen our relationship,” noting that she would give more details as soon as the arrangements have been finalised.
In the meantime, the Minister congratulated the Jamaican team which advanced to the FIFA Under 17 World Cup Finals in Mexico later this year by finishing as one of the top four teams in the CONCACAF tournament.
“I offer congratulations to the other teams that qualified for the World Cup Finals from this tournament – United States, Canada and Panama,” she said.
She noted that the Government of Jamaica was also in full support of the Haitian Government’s proposal to FIFA and CONCACAF to give special consideration to the Haitian team to compete at the Under 17 World Cup Finals.
CONTACT: ALECIA SMITH