In the clearest sign yet that Caribbean governments will most likely send troops to participate in an international peacekeeping mission to Haiti, Chairman of the CARICOM grouping, Suriname’s President Chan Santokhi has said that the region will prepare and present a strategy plan of involvement to be presented to the international community in about a week’s time.
Santokhi said Tuesday that his administration had already briefed the local parliament on the situation in strife-torn Haiti, while Defense Minister Krisha Mathura has been mandated to work with the military to come up with a plan to assist the 15-member bloc’s most populous, but troubled member nation.
His comments have come just days after the administration of Prime Minister Phillip Davis in The Bahamas said it is not only willing to send troops to work with a multinational force in Haiti but that it is actually preparing a contingent to do so once CARICOM and the UN presses the green button. The Bahamas is a close geographic neighbor of Haiti, like The Turks and Caicos Islands. Stability in Haiti is key to The Bahamas as its population already caters to a large number of Haitian refugees and its coast guard is always busy intercepting boat people fleeing trouble back home.
No other member state has, meanwhile, publicly made declarations about military involvement but several countries including Guyana and Jamaica have sent troops in the past to collaborate with UN and other missions in times of trouble in Haiti. Haiti is the last nation to join the bloc of mostly former British colonies back in July of 2002.
“We must not abandon Haiti. We are going to have to take responsibility to provide a helping hand to this country. I urgently request security assistance for Haiti. Haiti is a CARICOM country and we will not abandon it. The people must be liberated,” the Herald newspaper quoted him as saying Tuesday.
Santokhi said that the strategic plan is being drawn up with Canada which is among western nations leading preparations for an assistance package for Haiti along with the US. “The intention is that it will be presented within a week.”
The publication quoted the head of state as saying that any humanitarian assistance will be targeted to help ordinary locals and not necessarily the government of President Ariel Henry. Henry controversially succeeded Jovenel Moise after he was assassinated by Colombian mercenaries in July of last year. Unstable even before Moise’s murder, the country has been in a tailspin of violence ever since as armed gangs have taken over the streets in several town, shutting down economic life, triggering hunger and fears of famine even as health authorities monitor an outbreak of the deadly cholera disease.
Caribbean leaders have held several rounds of virtual meetings among themselves and with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the past week as they struggle to come up with a plan for the way forward. Talks have also been held with the US and the UN, Santokhi says. Even Mexico has been involved in collaborative talks.
“A resolution must be presented as a mandate, because the countries cannot just enter Haiti. The resolution was adopted under the UN flag. The intention is that the CARICOM countries will meet again within a week to make the final decision.”
Meanwhile, PM Davis of The Bahamas says that “we will abide by the outcome” of any decision by the Caribbean to send a peacekeeping force to Haiti. This is as Chief of Staff Commodore, Raymond King said concrete steps were being made to prepare marines for deployment if necessary.
“The preparation entails identifying persons who would have been trained over the years. We have done a number of infantry training, courses and programs. They may have worked regionally as well as with our US partners. So, we have an annual training program then we have a training program during the year for persons to acquire those infantry competencies as consents,” he told the Tribune newspaper.