Monday, March 15 2010
CARICOM leaders are insisting the regional grouping should play “a clear role” in the reconstruction of earthquake ravaged Haiti.
Haiti, Caricom’s newest member state, was devastated by a massive 7.0 magnitude quake on January 12 which left over 200,000 people dead and its capital Port-au-Prince in ruins.
St Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Denzil Douglas, at an inter-sessional conference in St Lucia last Friday, accused some members of the international community of excluding the Caribbean from reconstruction efforts in Haiti, following the January earthquake.
And Caricom special envoy to Haiti, former Jamaican prime minister PJ Patterson has said as much. The United States has been leading international relief efforts in the damaged country.
But Dr Douglas said that Caricom can provide the voice that Haiti itself does not have, in its time of crisis.
TT Prime Minister Patrick Manning missed this inter-sessional conference choosing instead to stay at home and address the local media on the spiralling controversy surrounding Udecott and its former chairman Calder Hart.
“Caricom wants to impress upon the minds of those who are leading the international financial institutions that the Caribbean Community has a voice on behalf of Haiti and nothing should take place in terms of Haiti’s future development unless we are the centre of those activities,” Dr Douglas said at the conference.
Patterson echoed similar sentiments saying Caricom is no longer “just simply another regional grouping”, but a community of 14 sovereign nations with Haiti as its most recent member.
“We are not going to become mere passengers on any bus taking Haiti in whatever direction others may choose,” he said.
“Caricom must be the column for the steering wheel, while Haiti must be in the driving seat, and we cannot and will not abdicate our responsibility to our kith and kin in this hour of need.”
Continued assistance to Haiti was one of the top agenda items at a meeting of Caricom leaders held recently in Dominica. The Haitian leader, Rene Preval, attended a meeting with US President Barack Obama on Wednesday last to discuss continued aid for his country.
President Obama described the current situation in Port-au-Prince as “dire” and added that with the approach of the rainy season, the challenge was to prevent a second disaster.
He also said Washington would continue to help Haiti through the long reconstruction process.