Friday, December 3, 2010

Shame on CARICOM: Abandoning Haiti in a Time of Crisis

Originally posted on: The Trinidad and Tobago Review

Posted on: December 3rd, 2010

Original link:

Shame on CARICOM: Abandoning Haiti in a Time of Crisis
By: Kevin Edmonds

Trinidad and Tobago Review
December 3rd, 2010

A police officer pushes voters against a wall covered with posters depicting presidential candidate Jude Celestin during general elections in Port-au-Prince last week. —Photo: AP

On Sunday evening, the international community was confronted with the epic failure of the Haitian elections under allegations of widespread fraud and voting irregularities. That same evening, Eduard Mulet, the head of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti expressed “their deep concern at the numerous incidents that marred the elections.”

The next day however, the first instances of backtracking and damage control began to trickle out through the release of a joint statement by CARICOM and the Organization of American States which read that “Based on its observations in the eleven electoral departments, the Joint Mission does not believe that these irregularities, serious as they were, necessarily invalidated the process.”

On Sunday morning, starting at 6am (when polling stations were supposed to open) I took part in an informal election monitoring exercise with one of six teams made up of Haitian grassroots organizations, lawyers and journalists. Each team’s objective was to witness the electoral process unfold across numerous targeted polling stations in Port au Prince, Jacmel and Gros Morne and document any irregularities.

Going in, the team already had a solid understanding of the already existing irregularities of the election – based on the exclusion of 15 political parties, the controversial nature of the Rene Preval handpicked Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), and the noted difficulties of the Office of National Identification (ONI) in replacing the hundreds of thousands of voter registration cards lost in the January 12th earthquake. All of these irregularities pointed to a fixed election financed and supported by the international community; however, despite the exclusion of political candidates, the terrible organization and general chaos at the polling stations further marginalized the voters who had turned out to cast their vote.

At each of the seven voting stations we visited in central Port au Prince, we talked with large groups of voters who were frustrated, angry and disappointed that their names were not on the voter registration lists – while those of their deceased relatives and neighbours were eligible. At one polling station, Lycee Fritz Pierre Louis, not only were hundreds of voters not on the list, the station had yet to receive any ballots as of 10am – four hours into the voting process. Outside of the gate, voters repeatedly complained to me “Non Mwen Se Pa La” (my name is not there).

Starting at 1:30pm we began to ask if we would examine the voting registries to see how many people had voted. The CEP volunteers obliged, showing us registers which documented between 4-10% of the population had cast their ballot successfully. From the monitoring of the seven selected polling stations, we witnessed only one international observer from the European Union at the Lycee Toussaint L’Ouverture. At none of the seven stations visited were any representatives of the OAS or CARICOM delegation present, giving much credence to their ignorance such widespread irregularities.

The fact that the international community, including CARICOM and the OAS have released a statement endorsing the election (despite some small irregularities) completely dismisses the outright farce that was the Haitian election on November 28th. In a report released by the OAS and CARICOM on November 29th, the report blames “the toxic atmosphere created by the allegations of massive fraud” as to why there was so much disorganization – rather than the widespread existence and practice of electoral fraud itself. The Haitian Provisional Electoral Council also came out on the evening of the election and stated that there were only problems at 56 of the 1500 polling stations in Haiti. What this means, is that by sheer bad luck – that out of the seven stations we visited, in addition to the 45 stations the other teams had visited throughout Port au Prince, Jacmel and Gros Morne - we had only visited those stations which encountered serious irregularities. What are the odds?

On the ground, observing the Haitian people there was an extremely low turnout – definitely not enough to give any semblance of legitimacy to this already rigged election. The only conclusion that can be reached is that CARICOM and the OAS are falling on their swords to protect the interests of the wider international community who wishes to have a government favourable to their self serving development and investment initiatives.

Without a doubt the acceptance of these deeply flawed elections as legitimate by CARICOM seriously jeopardizes the organization’s future relationship with Haiti. It also demonstrates how the organizations “commitment to democratic principles” hypocritically did not extend to Haiti during such critical elections whereby the winner of the election will be responsible for the colossal task of rebuilding the after the January 12th earthquake and the ongoing cholera epidemic.

The actions of CARICOM and the international community in rubber stamping this election proves that the demands of the Haitian people for democracy and self determination are not important enough to be valued, and the endorsement of this election is the ultimate betrayal of the Haitian people. This betrayal at such a critical moment in Haiti’s history adds CARICOM to the list of the devastated nation’s antagonists who are leading it towards a dangerous political crisis which we all know the people of Haiti do not need nor deserve. Looking at the organization’s response, this can only make one wonder, when the Haitian people have friends like the CARICOM, who needs enemies?

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