By Dr Lesly Kernisant
December 10, 2014
As a member of the Haitian-American community of New York, I watched intensely the growing disarticulation of the various branches of the current government of Haiti over the past few months. Obviously, as a passive observer, I am asking all our elected officials to put an end to this protracted battle for political supremacy. You have the right to express opposing viewpoints in a democratic system, but to engage in an endless political mud slugging is a clear dereliction of your duties as servants of the people of Haiti, including a large segment of bona fide Haitian citizens living abroad.
For the sake of your local constituency whose interest you were elected to serve, I am appealing to your sense of duty to end the political stalemate using the power of Collaboration over the destructive force of Confrontation. You were all entrusted with the will of the majority to improve their living conditions. Instead, you have spent considerable amount of time promoting political ideologies, name calling, character assassination and have turned the idea of "balance of power" into a battle for "grabbing of power". In the meanwhile, the Haitian electorate, powerless and helpless, continues to pray for their trusted representatives to deliver on your campaign promise of a "better life". They are expecting much needed welfare services, a boom of economic activities, the right to a good education, preservation of civil liberties, safety, justice and security to live free and clear of any danger. Sadly, these basic necessities of life expected as part the natural human right package for most citizens of the Western hemisphere, continue to be a dream for most of our compatriots. As unwanted visitors abroad, they are treated like pariahs of society and are being expelled daily from neighboring countries that still use watchdogs, border patrols and newly adopted immigration laws to strip them of their adopted nationality, even those children born of Haitian parents in the host country. From heroes with a proud history of great warriors, we are now carrying the disparaging labels of "beggars of the world" as people and the "failed state" of the Caribbean region as a country.
Joining my voice to a chorus of other concerned compatriots, I am urging the country's elected government officials to “do the right thing”. As a general rule, political stability maintains social control which, in turn, is essential to future economic growth of a country. As such, you, our leaders, should set aside your differences, use your collective effort under the banner of a “Representative Democracy” and make necessary compromises for a quick solution to this simmering political crisis. While political ideologies are not easily reconciled, divisive issues fueled by political partisanship can be addressed through less disruptive and destabilizing form of disapproval. Time is of essence. We cannot take back the country into a climate of despair and chaos after a long period of relative calmness. When that happens, we will be forced to, once again, rely on the whims and desires of the international community for life-saving rescue missions. As Haitians, we have a rich history and a proud tradition. We cannot continue to perpetrate this self-generating torture of our own people.
While we condemn the explosive nature of your on-going debate on such controversial issues as "checks and balances" in a normal system of governance, it is a legitimate concern to protect the citizens against potential “abuse of power”. All of us from the Diaspora support the existing bicameral form of government that clearly establishes boundaries delineating legal, constitutional, social and political rights of individual citizens. For most of us, having lived in adoptive countries where such principles are held sacred, we understand the need to allow political parties free speech under the constitution, free election for legislatures and a separate, totally independent judiciary. At the same time, we also have a moral obligation to differentiate “the right from wrong”. As a parallel, we cannot get rid of termites in a single room by blowing up the entire house with a stick of dynamites. That would be counterproductive. Under the constitution, the executive branch works in concert with the other two branches to guarantee “stability of the government”. We cannot therefore remove a duly elected President by simply waving a mass protest or igniting the popular fuse into a mass mayhem. We just cannot act irresponsibly as leaders whose decisions will impact the lives and livelihood of a nation with a population of 11 millions. We have to follow the Constitution; the president serves for a fixed term and cannot be removed from office unless we follow the dictum of our Constitution. In the unlikely event of an impeachable offense warranting such a removal from office, there is always an orderly, peaceful procedure to follow. In my view, any attempt at launching a complex and extensive campaign to unseat a duly elected President at the tail end of his constitutional mandate is futile and counterproductive. All of us should operate within the boundaries of reason as we continue to freely express our opposing views. It is fair game to criticize, but it is also fair play to point out key achievements while we highlight the significant failures.
In my humble opinion, the socio-economic pulse of the country is more palpable now than it has ever been. As one travels the countryside, there is noticeable improvement of our previously barren national landscape. Some areas are beaming with construction, new creations and lush vegetation. The security situation has had a remarkable improvement and the social scene is now more vibrant than it was four years ago. Arguably, these steps of progress are largely infused with international goodwill, but the government-built platform for change, coordination and collaboration cannot be dismissed as not-enough. In a country with a culture of poverty where destruction is used as a weapon to erase any structure that memorializes a predecessor’s accomplishment, it is worth-mentioning that the current government has a track record that tends to preserve what is built and build on what was conceived. Hence, this progressive agenda should be considered a great step in the right direction. Conversely, we can cite a few examples of disappointment. We can openly decry the widening economic gap between the haves and the have-nots, the on-going political feud between the legislative and the executive branch of government, the missed opportunities of a high post-quake international interest that has quickly dissipated with very few long term, foreign investments. Finally, when the glare of the world-wide cameras was turned off on the large number of our citizens, victims of the disastrous earthquake, we have essentially submerged them in the deep recesses of our minds’ distant memory. The flimsy tents of the post-quake era have not yet totally disappeared, a substantial number of homeless families have simply relocated their tents not far away from Port-au-Prince. In fairness tough, one should agree that the fulfillment of all the transformational changes promised and articulated in most presidential inauguration speeches are never implemented within the predicted timeline. It is therefore unfair to use a sort of a knee-jerk skepticism to call for a drastic and immediate change of government.
As we begin a New Year in a couple of weeks, it may be time for all of us to reflect on the past with a renewed sense of “Country first” objective. We have two distinct choices. We can follow our emotional impulses by mobilizing an already divided population toward a specific ideology. Inevitably, any movement that sparks the emotional tinderbox through civil disobedience can also lead to violence and destructive behavior. Inevitably, the end-results of such a political solution will destabilize the government, plunge the country in a state of chaos and create a perfect reason for the International Big brother to impose a state of emergency in a “failed state” or a “Banana Republic” or the “poorest, most politically volatile Caribbean country”, the same old images of our recent past. That would take us back to a familiar theme” Haiti, back to the future”. A more rational approach, however, is to invoke our sense of patriotism, the love of country and the well-being of the citizens of Haiti, inside and outside the borders of the country. Together, we can compromise, we can make deals, we can strategize a socio-economic system designed for the well-being of the people. Together, we can dream of a country with many centers of economic activities (Decentralization of Port-au-Prince), a country with greater access to healthcare, with equal opportunity for a good education, a country secure enough to guarantee personal freedom for all its citizens and finally, a country whose past image of systemic dysfunction can become a relic of the past. This can become a reality only if all of us, elected officials, community leaders, appointed members of the executives together with the Haitian expatriates embrace the notion of " United, we will succeed, Divided we will surely fail "
Wishing you the best for the holidays,
Lesly Kernisant MD, FACOG
Executive Director of Clinical Practices
718-422-8030 - Office
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