Antigua’s PM wants Haitian prime minister to be ‘honest broker’ as solution sought to crisis

July 5, 2023  -Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne says while he understands the current situation in Haiti is a “delicate issue”  he believes that the Haitian leader, Dr Ariel Henry “can become an honest broker” if he publicly indicates that he has no intention of contesting the next election in the French-speaking CARICOM country.

“I believe that the current prime minister, Ariel Henry, he has a significant role to play. I believe the time has come for him to be magnanimous and to indicate publicly to the Haitian people, he and others in his government will not be contesting the elections whenever they are called,” Browne told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).

CARICOM leaders, who are into the third and final day of their 45th annual summit are discussing the current political and socio-economic situation in the member state, with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reiterating the need for an international security force to help restore peace and stability to the country.

Henry became prime minister following the July 7, 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise at his private residence overlooking the capital. But since then he has had to deal with calls for his resignation from opposition legislators as well as having to deal with criminal gangs that have severely disrupted life in the country with a spate of kidnappings.

Browne told CMC that while Henry has said “privately” that  he does not intend to contest the elections  he believes nonetheless that “it should be said openly to the Haitian people.

“And I’m of the view that if he only takes that position, then he can become an honest broker and between his efforts utilizing the most powerful office in Haiti, as an honest broker, along with the eminent persons group and with the support of the international community;  I believe that we could, let’s say, develop a Haitian solution for that matter.

“Haiti could put together a program to, first of all, stabilize the country to deal with the lawlessness within the society, “ Browne said, telling CMC “at the same time, concurrently, establish a framework and certainly some firm dates for elections, and also to consult with the various stakeholders who will be interested in participating in those elections, and to place the country in a state of resident readiness to hold presidential elections.

“So, you know, we’ve always argued that it has to be a homegrown solution. I know that many countries will be gun shy to send in troops, and to you know, and I mean end up in a situation in which a country could be further destabilized, you have seen this happen, I mean, in other countries,

“But if you have a homegrown solution, and one in which, you know, the Haitian people will participate in the stabilization of the country and ultimately in the selection of a president and to do so, as soon as practicable ….take at least another 12 to 18 months, then and I think that is the way to go.

“But the current leader, Ariel Henry, I think he should be at the center of the let’s say the planning and organization assuming you know that you will not be participating in elections,” Browne told CMC.

St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves shares Browne’s position, reminding CMC that during the CARICOM summit in the Bahamas earlier this year, Prime Minister Henry had given an undertaking to not be involved in the election.

“Well, since in the Bahamas, Henry has said, point blank in an answer to a question to me. And then I pulled Justin Trudeau, (Prime Minister of Canada) who was there, and said, ‘Hear what the Prime Minister is saying. He said that he’s not running and nobody in his government would be running for the office of prime minister or president or any such office in any elections.

“He has said that and he said he has said it publicly I don’t know. But he certainly said it to me, said it repeatedly to me in the presence of the Prime Minister Trudeau and also the Prime Minister of the Bahamas when we were in the Bahamas. So that that is a matter of record. And I mean, I can say that because he told me that he told me that in front of witnesses,” Gonsalves told CMC.

But Gonsalves, the longest serving CARICOM leader, told CMC that he wanted to make it clear that “whatever we do here in CARICOM, or we at the UN….it has to be within the framework, that the process must be Haitian devised and Haitian led”.

Bahamas Prime Minister Phillip Davis said his country’s position is clear and that “there needs to be assistance to the Haiti National Police by providing them training resources, assisting in recruiting and training, to be able to secure Haiti;  to provide a space for peace, tranquility, to allow persons to move about freely without fear of intimidation or violence.

“And that’s our position and we need to get there. We have you been talking too much about it and we need just to act. Fortunately, we were able to get all the players, or most of the players, significant players in one room in Jamaica couple weeks ago, which was a step in the right direction.

“And I think the eminent persons that we appointed, we will get somewhere and get there soon. But it’s a complex issue, because some of the issues are entrenched in personality and those personalities are entrenched in their views. And the question of giving and taking, we have not reached there yet and what has been achieved is I think the lines have been drawn. And we know what issues to be able to now try to bridge those issues,” Davis said.


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