Haiti's agony-who's in charge?

September 21, 2005

by Rickey Singh

HAITI'S elections continue to be elusive. Latest indications out of Port-au-Prince is that the presidential and legislative elections now scheduled for November 20, may also be delayed.

What's constant is the seeming ineptitude of the US-created interim administration and a Provisional Electoral Council that mirrors the political infighting and self-serving agendas of those in "authority'' that contribute to the barriers frustrating elections-readiness. Who is in charge?

It may be easy for some to finger the Bush administration for poor "governance'' in Haiti, having got rid of the Jean Bertrand Aristide presidency in the coup of February 29, 2004. Surely the Bush administration cannot escape blame.

But that would be to excuse the very Haitians it had anointed to help put in place clean and democratic governance.

High among such Haitians would be interim President Boniface Alexandre (remember him?) He was Chief Justice under the Aristide presidency.

What role is Alexandre really playing to enable some semblance of fairness and justice in the temporary governance of Haiti, along with the US choice as prime minister, Gerard Latortue?

Is Alexandre showing any interest in the politics of revenge that have resulted in known armed political gangsters being given preferential treatment by the justice administration system while leading Aristide loyalists, among them ex-Prime Minister Neptune, and now the imprisoned priest and presidential aspirant, Gerard Jean-Juste, continue to suffer?

Neither Alexandre nor Latortue appears to have been affected by the angry warning that came from Justice Minister Henri Dorlean that it was "unacceptable for judges and prosecutors to use their powers to keep people in jail in violation of the law...''

Up to a month ago, according to the Justice Minister approximately 95 per cent of an estimated 1,300 prisoners were languishing in jail for months without being charged or placed before the courts.

Questions are also being asked as to why those who were charged with murder but known for their roles in violent opposition to the Aristide administration, such as Louis-Jodel Chamblain, could be released from prison, pending trial, but ex-PM Neptune and leading activists of Aristide's Lavalas party remain incarcerated?

Further, frustrated Haitians, not known to be supporters of Lavalas, have been asking, amid all the reported incompetence and divisions within the Electoral Council, what initiatives have Alexandre and Latortue undertaken to improve the efficient functioning of that body.

For instance, while the Electoral Council claims to have registered some 2.2 million potential voters, or about 50 per cent eligible to cast their ballots, the reality is, according to reports from Port-au-Prince, that the great majority of them are yet to receive the photo ID that will confirm their registration.

If elections go ahead under existing arrangements then, as noted by human rights representatives monitoring the situation, it is unlikely that there could be more than one million voters at the polls.

That would be just one fourth of the estimated four million Haitians eligible to vote. Even so, electoral fraud on a massive scale is feared.

The problem gets worse when it is realised that although about 30 candidates would have registered as presidential hopefuls by the September 15 closing date, the Electoral Council is yet to rule on the validity of their credentials.

There is no secret about the Council's own bias against Aristide's Lavalas party.

Consequently, while there has been hasty registration of known hateful anti-Aristide elements, among them 65-year-old Haitian-born Texas businessman Dumarsais Simeus, who has been living outside Haiti for some 44 years, technicalities have been raised to deprive, for example, the Aristide and Lavalas-backed Catholic priest, Jean-Juste, held in prison without being placed before the courts.

Last weekend, as PM Latortue was meeting with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, UN officials were reflecting on some of the fears of Haitian electoral and human rights representatives over reports that fraud and lack of transparency could seriously undermine free and fair elections if held under existing arrangements in November-or whenever.

Copyright © 2005 Trinidad Express.

Trinidad & Tobago Express

Forwarded by the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network

Aristide.Org created and maintained by Jay Atkinson