November 15, 2013

More than talk needed from Caricom in Dominican Republic matter

Fri Nov 15, 2013

Pressure is mounting on the Government of the Dominican Republic to take action to redress the effects of a recent ruling by that country’s Constitutional Court, which denies citizenship to people of Haitian origin born in the Dominican Republic. The ruling has been widely condemned regionally and internationally by both governments and international organisations, particularly those active in the human rights field.{{more}}

As concern and outrage grows, even the regional integration grouping CARICOM, not noted for urgent action on such matters, has been pushed into at least meeting at the highest level to discuss and work out an appropriate response. The Bureau of CARICOM, chaired by the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, and including the leaders of Haiti, Suriname and St Vincent and the Grenadines, is reported to be organising an urgent meeting in Port of Spain next week on the matter.

Our own Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, has been the principal agitator on the regional level in defence of the disenfranchised Haitians. To his credit and to that of the Vincentian people, Gonsalves has spoken out openly from Day One, condemning the discriminatory ruling of the Dominican court and urging his counterpart in that country, President Danilo Medina, to take corrective action on behalf of the Dominican-born Haitians.

In a letter to Medina on October 11, Dr Gonsalves expressed the deep distress of the Government and people of St Vincent and the Grenadines at the court ruling. He described it as having the effect of “rendering stateless huge numbers of persons of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic”, and as being “unacceptable in any civilized community”. The Vincentian leader then appealed to the reason and conscience of President Medina to take corrective action to guarantee the full rights of the Haitian-Dominicans affected.

Having received no response to his appeal, PM Gonsalves did not let the matter rest. On Monday of this week, he dispatched a follow-up letter to President Medina urging him “to act swiftly in pursuing a path to correct” the injustices being perpetrated against Haitians born in the Dominican republic, warning that quiet diplomacy on the matter was wholly insufficient.

In furtherance of the need for urgency, Dr Gonsalves wrote the CARICOM Secretary General on November 12, urging him to coordinate with the CARICOM Chair a firm position consistent with the gravity of the situation”. It appears that his call has not fallen on deaf ears, for there is reported to be an emergency meeting of its Bureau next week.

We can only hope that some clear course of action emerges from that meeting, a course which would be followed by all CARICOM members. The people of the Caribbean cannot and must not tolerate such blatant discrimination against persons of Haitian origin in the Dominican Republic. Haiti, besides sharing with us a common history of slavery and colonial oppression, is also a full member of CARICOM. In addition, the Dominican Republic was gratuitously allowed by CARICOM to be a partner in its trade pact with the European Union, thereby creating what is called CARIFORUM.

Above all, these Haitian-Dominicans are human beings, and entitled to the full enjoyment of all those rights enshrined in the various international treaties and obligations. To deny them the fundamental right to citizenship of the land in which they were born must be an affront to all right-thinking people.