L’Agence Haitienne de Presse: Electoral Council Ponders Next Steps, Extension of State of Emergency, Soros-Mevs 40 Free Trade Zones!!

Posted on April 9, 2010

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(Unofficial) Overview of just some of the News from AHP/ Radio Solidarité

Week ending April 9, 2010   

Please visit the official site at www.ahphaiti.org 

for all the news in French and Kreyol

Highlights: Electoral council discusses elections outlook as OAS experts visit Haiti; Parliament debates and votes on proposed 18 month extension of the State of Emergency; Canada expands its aid to Haiti; The latest on the proposed Free trade zones; Economist Eddy Labossière advocates independent Haitian aid oversight; Replacement teachers sought from the Haitian Diaspora and Francophone territories; Pension fund director faces complaint; Trial sessions begin in Gonaïves for criminal cases;

* As the OAS expert delegation continued its meetings during its visit to Haiti, the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) has provided some information on its intentions. While CEP Member Jacques Belzin affirmed early this week just prior to the OAS visit  that the Council is “technically ready” to organize elections later this year for presidential, legislative and municipal races, CEP President Gaillot Dorsinvil said Friday, April 9, following talks with the OAS delegation that the Council has no mandate at present to organize anything other than legislative elections, which, prior to the devastating January 12th earthquake were due to have been held on February 28, 2010, and is waiting for a signal from the Executive branch regarding presidential and municipal elections. President René Préval, whose term expires on February 7, 2011, has said on numerous occasions that he has no intention of staying in office one day longer. However Mr. Dorsinvil declined to make any estimate as to when elections will be held, noting that there are several issues to be addressed, including providing voter registration cards, drawing up the voting registries and identifying where and how many voting offices are to be set up. Asserting that the National Office of Identification (ONI) is not yet in a position to deliver voter identification cards, he pointed out that the problems are especially difficult as many ID cards were lost, many thousands of Haitians have been displaced or killed in the earthquake, and thus it will be a challenge to update the voting registries. He also announced that meetings have been held with some political organizations in an effort to assure “credible and transparent” elections.  The OAS delegation in Haiti since Thursday led by Assistant Secretary General Albert Ramdin, has indicated that it is studying the feasibility of holding elections in early 2011.

  The credibility of the CEP has been widely criticized, particularly by several political organizations which have called for its dissolution, claiming that it is an instrument of the Unity (Inité) political grouping (an incarnation of the Lespwa Platform), which is said to have demanded that the CEP exclude a number of political parties from the electoral process. Mr. Dorsinville responded to these criticisms by saying that his CEP hasn’t organized any elections. However more than half of the members of the current CEP served on its predecessor, which was chaired by Frantz Gérard Verret. That CEP was lambasted for having organized what its vice-president at the time called “falsified elections”. 

* The House of Deputies voted Thursday April 8 in favor of a draft law proposed by the Executive to extend the State of Emergency for an additional 18 months, with 43 Deputies voting for the bill, 6 voting against, and three abstentions. The vote came after a positive recommendation by the special House of Deputies commission tasked with analyzing the proposed law. The vote was preceded by lively debate, with opponents expressing a number of concerns, including fears that passage of the bill would weaken Haitian sovereignty by preventing the Haitian Parliament from playing its constitutionally mandated role in the balance of the three branches of power, and would prevent the Parliament from having any real authority over the administration of the short-term aid package agreed at the March 31st international donors conference at UN headquarters in New York. The bill also authorized the creation of the CIRH (Interim Commission for the Reconstruction of Haiti) composed of Haitians and international members. Critics also voiced concerns over granting authority to an Executive whose term in office expires seven months before the end of the proposed renewed State of Emergency.   Chamber’s president, Levaillant Louis Jeune (Lespwa) said this law, if also adopted by the Haitian Senate, will provide a legal tool for the prerogatives sought by the Executive. He added that some minor amendments by the Senate might be added to the bill, which would then be resubmitted to the Deputies for probable adoption.

* Dominican President Leonel Fernàndez, speaking at the World Economic Forum for Latin America in Cartagena, Colombia, stressed the need for all sectors to take part in Haiti’s reconstruction, and said that public-private partnerships are essential in moving forward Haiti’s reconstruction, both for profit and with corporate social responsibility, particularly with respect to the environment.  

* Canada’s Minister of International Cooperation, Beverly J. Oda, announced on Thursday at a press conference with Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive a package of additional aid measures for Haiti, totaling $54.6 million, with $20 million to be invested in the construction of a hospital in Gonaïves and $34.6 million to cover training and equipment for the Haitian national Police and construction of a new police academy in Ganthier. The Canadian Agency for International Development (ACDI) also announced $65.15 million including aid for the Red Cross ($40.92 million to supply temporary housing for 15,000 needy families in Jacmel, Léogâne, and Port-au-Prince) the UN ($6.58 million for the UNDP to set up a facility to receive and treat earthquake rubble) and various NGOs, including Oxfam canada, which will receive $2 million to provide direct aid including water, sanitation and hygiene kits, and $4.5 million to Enfance Canada to help 45,500 vulnerable children..   

* A free trade zone is moving rapidly ahead in the Cité Soleil/Delmas 2 area. Backed by the Soros Foundation and the Win Group of the Mevs family, the project already has Haitian government authorization.  Engineers have been conducting site evaluations and materials assessments, said Haitian industrialist Fritz Mevs. Construction is set to begin in two or three months, he said, with the expectation that some 31,000 jobs will be created. The objective, in his view, is to establish at least 40 different free trade zones across the country, especially in all the coastal areas, with ports nearby to facilitate shipping of merchandise. Mr. Mevs said his group and the Soros Foundation are prepared to offer advice and assistance to any local or external Diaspora investors wishing to work on these projects. 

* Eddy Labossière, Secretary General of the Association of Haitian Economists, called for strengthening the office of the Inspector General of Finance by making it an autonomous agency. This would help fight corruption and make the agency more efficient. It also needs to be assured of adequate resources. These measures would reassure donors. 

* Education officials appealed this week to retired teachers, the Haitian Diaspora and the Francophone community to help fill the immediate need for replacement teachers in the aftermath of the earthquake. 

* Jean Alix Boyer, director general of the troubled ONA (Office of Old Age Insurance), was scheduled to appear before a prosecutor in Port-au-Prince on allegations of corruption and misappropriation of funds. According to the president of the agency’s union,  Réginald Petit Homme, members of the union have filed a complaint with the prosecutor. The ULCC (Anti-Corruption Unit) is also studying the case. 

* Court is now in session in Gonaïves to hear some 10 cases involving for the most part armed robbery and rape.