From: Nekita Lamour
A version of the following appeared in the March 2006 issue of the Boston Haitian Reporter under the title:
Preval must face same challenges as a decade ago
One more time, Haitian people dispelled the west’s perception as the world watched last month a dignified people quietly casted their ballots in an orderly fashion.
Needless to say, the immediate priority in Haiti is making basic infrastructures like roads, water, electricity, telephone functionable as well as assuring physical safety and order in the country. However, I would like to use this month’s column to summarize the content of a half decade of letter writing.
Except that 4 pages of my writing on privatization were published in Haiti based Bon Nouvel’s March 1996 issue, no media, local, or government officials responded to any of my registered or regular snail mail.
The first mail I wrote in March 1991 was an attempt to ask the Minister of then Foreign Affairs to solve the very tensed even violent conflicts regarding the selection of then prospective consulate. I recommended having a qualified consulate in Boston, someone though he/she would be a diplomat, could be a conflict mediator, an engaged person who could put the divisive community together. For instance, the Cape Verdean, Brazilian, Japanese, Italian consulates are very involved in their respective local communities. Many local and non local Haitians had occupied the consulate post in the past 15 years. However I am still seeing a community more fragmented than ever.
The content of the 16 page letter I wrote in March 1996 still resonates today. I began by suggesting to the Preval -Smarth government to improve Haiti’s postal system and develop a more effective method of responding to written communication. I used articles published in Haiti en Marche and other Haitian papers to exemplify that lawyers pleading the refugee causes in Martinique could not follow through because important papers that were faxed, delivered or mailed to Haitian officials were ignored. I gave the example of using a general format like post cards similar to those that legislators in the States use to respond to those who write them.
I continued by referring to l994 Boston Globe and New York Times articles to express my disappointment on the corruption that occurred during his predecessor’s reign and he should make certain that funds that belong to the people of Haiti are properly utilized.
In that extensive missive, I also proposed to fund a physical “face lifting” project in the country. Haiti’s beautiful gingerbread and old colonial houses and the unique architectures found in the provinces could create a magnificent panorama and attract tourists. I also suggested that there is a law stipulating and enforcing that homes and stores in commercial areas be painted every five years. I wrote as someone who had traveled the world, Haiti has more to offer than other Caribbean countries I visited and/or the region’s islands which photographs or videos I have seen. Despite, the impact of erosion, Haiti has a natural physical beauty and architecture that the west doesn’t always project. In sum, Preval’s government will need to invest one year’s customs and airport tax revenues in Haiti’s physical appearance, starting with Port-au-Prince.
In my decade old open letter, I expressed concerns on the number of government ministers. In l996, there were somewhat 17 ministers and seven secretaries of State. Offices can be combined. For instance, The Secretary of State for Literacy can function with the Department of Education. What is the role of a Minister of Defense? A strong police force can protect Haiti’s citizens. I don’t see the need for a Minister of Planning either. Each Ministerial Department could develop their individual plan.
I also wrote in my March 1996 letter that legislators need to study law and constitution. Being an activist doesn’t make one a lawmaker. There were legislators with an 8th grade education prior to making completing retho a requirement for senators and deputies. Many students who allegedly complete rethorique (6th year of the secondary cycle, the seventh is philo) can not write a cohesive paragraph with proper grammar and spelling in either French or Creole assessments when entering public schools in the United States. I proposed then that the Haitian Bar Association prepare an exam on Haiti’s law and constitution which anyone wishing to run for a legislative seat in Haiti would pass before campaigning. In other words, the bar should be raised in Haiti’s parliament.
I had several paragraphs on investing in young people and Education. Youth and Education are basic foundation to envision a healthy society. I read last year that at one point, Ireland was considered the Haiti of Europe. By focusing 40 years in the education of their youth, Ireland is now a rising country in Europe. Preval can anticipate to use the help of the “brains drained” to “rise up” Haiti. Haiti needs a 21rst century educational agenda that will change hearts and minds. A structured system could also be established so Haitians who were raised and/ or educated in the United States can facilitate Haiti’s growth and development by providing their knowledge and skills during summer vacations or semester breaks. Material objects that are being shipped by the cargo services and the billion dollars of remittances that the diaspora sends only provide short term sustenance. Education and the “know-how” will provide long term improvement. This generation born and educated in the United States is the Hope that will bring the knowledge that Haitians in the diaspora and in Haiti need to get out of the mess we are in.
The 15th point of my open letter to Preval was to take care of his physical and emotional health. One has to be emotionally and physically healthy to run a country. Preval should take vacations during his presidency.
A democratically elected president shouldn’t be forced out of his country. However, based on my observation after several trips to Haiti between l994 and 1996 as well reading and following the new world order, I warned in l996 in my limits that Haitian political stakeholders should create some resemblance of order, otherwise the next intervention would be a foreign occupation.
Finally, in my March l996 open letter, I begged every sector of the Haitian society to strive for peace and tranquility in Haiti. I am reiterating ten years later to please give Preval an opportunity to develop his leadership style and begin setting a foundation and prove to the world that Haitians are really free, independent and sovereign people. We can gain back Haiti’s title in my childhood era “The Pearl of the Antilles,” or her 19th century place among the richest colonies in the west. Preval’s failure is the failure of 8 million people. Beware, the world is watching us.
Good Luck President Rene Preval.
Nekita Lamour, a regular contributor to the Reporter is a prolific essayist
and a veteran educator.