Jamaica is prepared to support a united international effort in response to the persistent crisis and deteriorating conditions in Haiti, says Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness.
He was speaking in the House of Representatives on Tuesday (January 31), where he reaffirmed Jamaica’s commitment to working with CARICOM and bilateral partners, such as Canada, the United States of America, and the wider international community, towards achieving sustainable solutions for the situation in Haiti.
“Together with like-minded countries, we continue to believe that any solution must be driven by the will of the Haitian people, together with the collective support of the international community,” he said.
“We note with interest an initiative being contemplated within the Organization of American States (OAS) to strengthen the organisation’s response to the increasingly complex and challenging situation in Haiti. Jamaica will remain closely involved in efforts within this body to develop constructive approaches at the hemispheric level,” Mr. Holness told the House.
. The Prime Minister said that Jamaica took hope from the signing in December 2022 of the National Consensus for an Inclusive Transition and Transparent Elections in Haiti, which identified a calendar for installing an elected government by February 2024.
He noted that the consensus agreement has resulted in the establishment of a High Transitional Council to make nominations to Haiti’s highest court and an appointed committee to review the Constitution.
“The developments over the past week, however, demonstrate that progress on the path towards restoration of democratic institutions and the rule of law remains highly fragile,” Mr. Holness said.
He noted that within CARICOM and as a member of the group of Lead Heads on the issue of Haiti, Jamaica continues to collaborate on efforts to deliver on Haiti’s request for international assistance.
Outside of this collective approach, Mr. Holness noted that Jamaica has long signalled and reiterated a willingness to provide specific bilateral support, including in the areas of electoral reform and capacity-building and logistics.
“The Government of Jamaica also stands prepared to host our Haitian brothers and neighbours here in Kingston for constructive talks and negotiations between Haitian political leaders and civil society actors, should this be an agreed approach,” the Prime Minister said.
In addition, Mr. Holness said Jamaica would be willing to participate in a multinational security assistance deployment to Haiti, under the appropriate jurisdictional parameters, to support a return to a reasonable level of stability and peace.
He noted that both the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) and the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) have been alerted to this possible course of support, and they would have started to plan for such eventualities as part of their routine situational awareness and response readiness.
“It is our real hope that Haiti will soon overcome her challenges and embark on a path towards the restoration of stability, long-lasting peace and sustainable development for her land and people, with the full backing of the international community,” Mr. Holness said.
The people of Haiti continue to have their safety and human rights threatened by powerful gangs and militias, which perpetrate heinous crimes, including killings, kidnappings, and acts of violence against women and children.
These have escalated with the recent murders of policemen.
Mr. Holness said that nearly five million people face acute hunger across Haiti and cases of cholera and cholera-related deaths continue to pose grave difficulties for the country’s public health system.
“Thousands of Haitian children, especially those living in gang-affected areas, have yet to start their school year, and there are increasing reports of minors being recruited to serve in gangs,” he lamented.
“We are extremely concerned for the people of Haiti and the multifaceted impact of this situation on their development,” the Prime Minister said.
For his part, Leader of the Opposition, Mark Golding, said there is no doubt that the situation in Haiti is of acute interest to Jamaica given the proximity of the countries.
“It is in Jamaica’s interest that Haiti is restored to a functional democratic system of governance and that the security within Haiti and of its borders be put on a footing where criminal elements, organised and disorganised, do not hold sway,” Mr. Golding said.