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Prime Minister, the Hon. Bruce Golding, has underscored Jamaica’s commitment to Haiti, in a brief address to the House of Representatives on the withdrawal of the French-speaking country’s Under-17 football team from a CONCACAF tournament being held in Montego Bay.

Mr. Golding spoke on the matter following a statement by Minister of Health, Hon. Rudyard Spencer, on the events leading up to the team’s departure, after three cases of malaria were diagnosed among its members, with eight displaying symptoms.

“Football is a passion in Haiti, and I know that they were looking forward to their participation in the qualifications for the World Cup, and I know the disappointment they have felt,” Mr. Golding said.

He stated that the language barrier may have contributed to some of the problems experienced.

“In the communications, there could have been better management, particularly because of the language differences…when, for example, we had to insist that those who were not in hospital, we wanted them to be confined to a section of the hotel, they took offence, perhaps in how it was communicated to them, they felt that we were discriminating against them,” Mr. Golding said.

He said he had on Monday (February  21) assured Haitian President Rene Preval that, “Jamaica doesn’t think like that”.

Mr. Golding noted that, after the devastating earthquake just over a year ago, he was the second CARICOM Head of Government to arrive in Haiti, along with the Leader of the Opposition, Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller.

He noted the strong military and medical support from Jamaica that followed, and pointed out that, more recently, Jamaica had contributed two water trucks to Haiti to assist with the ongoing cholera crisis.

“There is no doubt in President Preval’s mind about the commitment of Jamaica to supporting Haiti at this time, and it is unfortunate that because of what steps had to be taken and the misunderstandings that arose, that it has been sensationalised the way that it has,” he stated.

Mr. Golding says he will have further discussions on the matter with the Haitian leader, when he attends the Prime Ministerial sub-committee on the CARICOM Single Market and Economy and the CARICOM Inter-Sessional Planning Meeting in Grenada, later this week.

“I want to express my regret at the extent to which the issue was sensationalised, (and ) exaggerated, leading to a demonstration there (in Haiti) on the weekend,” the Prime Minister said. He noted that following discussions, a Haitian delegation arrived in the island Monday, and discussions were continuing.

He said that President Preval understood that Jamaica’s procedures for dealing with issues such as malaria are substantially different Haiti’s.

“In Haiti, if you’re diagnosed with malaria, they give you some medication and they send you home. In Jamaica, we have some very strict requirements that require that you be isolated, that you be treated and that only when we are satisfied that there is no risk of transmission before you’re again exposed. And those were the arrangements and the protocols that were activated by the Ministry of Health,” Mr. Golding explained.
                                               

CONTACT: ALPHEA SAUNDERS