Prime Minister of Jamaica Andrew Holness addresses the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters, Sept. 22, 2022. Holness said on Jan. 31, 2023 that his government is willing to send soldiers and police officers to Haiti as part of a proposed multinational security assistance deployment.
Associated Press/Jason DeCrow, File

Haiti’s usually accommodating neighbor, Jamaica, is taking the lead role in organizing stakeholder consultations for the CARICOM member nation in the wake of the recent appointment of an Eminent Persons Group (EPG) by regional leaders.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness told parliament this week that the region had accepted Jamaica’s offer to host the three-day consultations from June 11 aimed at building consensus on the way forward in Haiti at a neutral venue.

Gangland violence in recent months have killed hundreds of people and has brought life to a standstill in some parts of the country. Haitian authorities have appealed to the international community for help, mainly through a multination international peacekeeping force to help local police beat back gangs which had made life miserable for many. Dozens of police officers have also been killed. Of the nations in the regional integration movement, only Jamaica and The Bahamas had offered to actually send personnel to join any peacekeeping force.

The 15-nation grouping has been pushing the US, Canada and other countries to lead the way with aid for Haiti as well as for the cobbling together of the security force. Haiti was the main agenda item for regional leaders when they met in a summit in The Bahamas in February. Back then, they had invited Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau to attend the summit and assist with finding a solution. Canada has a large Haitian diaspora which has been pressuring authorities to assist with the situation back home.

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.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.

Three former Caricom prime ministers, Bruce Golding of Jamaica, Perry Christie of The Bahamas and Kenneth Anthony of St. Lucia comprise the EPG group that also includes Caricom Secretary General Carla Barnett. Representatives from several western nations comprising the normal donor support group and other organizations will be invited to attend the roundtable talks. It is unclear if Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry has been invited to attend.

Holness argued that confidence, confidentiality, and patience must be respected as the but processis a delicate one 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. 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

For its part, the main opposition People’s National Party (PNP) did not object to the government initiative but appeared reluctant to support a multinational force noting that it might not be the best solution.

“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.

The country has not really settled down since the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise at his private residence. A federal judge in Florida recently sentenced a Haitian-Chilean businessman to life in prison on Friday facilitating Colombian mercenaries to acquire weapons to take out Moise.