Jamaica to host Haiti consultations next week

JAMAICA will next week host consultations for stakeholders from Haiti as the embattled French-speaking Caribbean country undergoing political and economic crises seeks to restore peace and stability.

The meetings are to be held from June 11 to 13 in Kingston, the Jamaican capital.

This was disclosed by Prime Minister Andrew Holness during a statement to Parliament on Tuesday. He said the consultations are intended to build consensus and allow for inclusive participation in a neutral environment.

Holness said the meetings were endorsed by Caribbean Community (Caricom) Heads of Government, following Jamaica’s offer to host the consultations during its participation in a mission to Haiti, led by Holness, in February this year.

“I can advise that the invitations were issued to the Haitian stakeholders by Prime Minister [Philip E Davis] of The Bahamas, chair of the Conference of Caricom Heads,” he said.

Holness said that, as host, Jamaica will be providing the venue for the consultations as well as arrangements to facilitate the attendees, who will include representatives from Haiti; the Eminent Persons Group (EPG), which comprises three former prime ministers, including Jamaica’s Bruce Golding; the prime ministers of The Bahamas and Haiti; the Caricom secretary general; and representatives from international partners and donor support for Haiti.

“Prime Minister Davis and I will officially hand over the process to the EPG at the opening event. However, I must underscore and emphasise that, notwithstanding any representation from states regionally, the consultations themselves will only involve the Haitian stakeholders supported by the EPG with their requisite technical personnel. The EPG will update Caricom as appropriate and necessary,” he said.

The EPG, which is also comprised of former Prime Minister of St Lucia Dr Kenny Anthony and former Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie, have been tasked, along with a small team comprising the technical expertise in mediation, security, and political research supported by the Caricom Secretariat, to facilitate consultations with Haitian stakeholders.

Holness stressed that it is important that the need for confidence, confidentiality, and patience be respected as this necessary but delicate process of consultation is engaged, and should be done without interference.

“I also underscore that these consultations are for the Haitian people, it is their meeting as they seek to determine what is in the best interest of their country. While Jamaica and others in the region have a key interest, it is also incumbent on all of us at this time to adopt a posture of non-interference in the process while being active in support and allowing the space for the dialogue to be held,” he said.

Holness said the Government is hopeful that the consultations will be a significant step in the process of restoring stability in Haiti.

“We recognise that it is a process that will need continued support by Jamaica, Caricom, and others to ensure a satisfactory conclusion. The people of Jamaica and our brothers and sisters in Haiti can be assured that this Government will do all it can to support this process towards restoration of peace and stability in Haiti,” he said.

In response, Leader of the Opposition Mark Golding said the Haitians designing a solution to their situation themselves is the way it should be, and any attempt to impose on Haiti any extra-territorial solution, whether it be at the level of international development bodies or individual governments outside of Haiti, would be the wrong approach.

“Haiti has suffered terribly from foreign interference over the years, centuries of it, quite frankly, which have contributed to their underdevelopment, poverty, and challenges they have now. I believe that this is an example of Caricom playing a beneficial role in trying to find a solution by an approach which is sound in principle and which should be supported.

“I hope that the upcoming meeting of the Haitian stakeholders will have full participation by a broad cross section of representatives of the key groups within Haiti that must come on board to design a way towards Haiti once again being a functional democracy, which is in the interest of us all. We certainly commit our support to the Haitian people in their efforts to solve their problems,” he said.

Since the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July 2021, Haiti has been in the throes of political and economic crises.

It is reported that rival gangs have taken control of up to 80 per cent of the capital, Port-au-Prince, and have continued a deadly fight for more territory.

The United Nations reported that more than 840 people were killed in the first three months of this year, while more than 600 people have been slain in April alone. Also, more than 400 people have been kidnapped so far this year.