PRIME Minister Andrew Holness on Tuesday said that Jamaica is prepared to give specific bilateral support, including participation in a multinational security assistance deployment, to restore stability and peace in Haiti.
Holness, who made a statement in the House of Representatives on the growing levels of violence and intimidation in Haiti, won support from Opposition Leader Mark Golding.
Haiti has been mired in political and economic crisis for years, with rampant lawlessness, poverty and despair. The assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July 2021 triggered another acute downturn in national stability.
Powerful and well-armed gangs control much of Haiti, and regularly kidnap people and hold them for ransom.
On Tuesday the United Nations envoy to Haiti, Helen La Lime said, “Gang-related violence has reached levels not seen in decades.”
She said that murders are up by a third since 2021, with 2,183 reported, while 1,359 kidnappings were recorded in 2022, more than doubling that recorded in 2021 and averaging roughly four per day.
“The Government and people of Jamaica, even with our own challenges, are concerned about the humanitarian and security crises being experienced by our Caribbean neighbour and sister nation, Haiti,” Holness said.
Jamaica, he added, would be willing to participate in a multinational security assistance deployment to Haiti, under appropriate jurisdictional parameters, to support a return to a “reasonable level of stability and peace, which would be necessary for any inclusive democratic process to take root.
“Both the Jamaica Defence Force and the Jamaica Constabulary Force 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 response readiness,” he said.
Golding agreed that there is no doubt the situation in Haiti is of huge interest to Jamaica, “given the proximity of Jamaica to the shores of Haiti”.
He noted Haiti’s “proud heritage”, including abolition of slavery, the victory in its war for its independence from France, as well as its costly recognition as an independent nation.
“It is clearly in Jamaica’s interest for Haiti to be restored to a functional democratic system of government, and that security within Haiti and of its borders be put on a footing where criminal elements — organised and disorganised — do not hold sway,” Golding said.
He called attention to the threat to Jamaica’s stability from the deterioration in Haiti and what that might mean for the potential impact on us here in Jamaica. “Given that they have already established the guns for drugs trade and other nefarious activities of that nature is an alarming prospect for us,” Golding said.
Holness, in his statement, noted that the people of Haiti continue to have their human rights threatened by powerful gangs and militias “who perpetrate heinous crimes, including killings, kidnappings and acts of violence against women and children” which have escalated with the murders of 14 policemen since January this year.
He said that Jamaica, through a Caricom statement, has strongly condemned the recent round of violence in the Caribbean nation.
“Today I reiterate that condemnation and extend our condolence to the families of the fallen officers,” he said, pointing out that the nearly five million Haitians are facing acute hunger across the country, as well as cases of cholera and cholera-related deaths which continue to pose grave difficulties for the public health system, creating several emergency level crises across the country.