The Haitian Diaspora: President Martelly’s Natural

Attorney-Emmanuel-RoyAttorney Emmanuel RoyBy Emmanuel Roy*
Edited by Elena Rocher

Washington, DC - The 56th President of the Republic of Haiti Michel Joseph Martelly is the only true modern day “diaspora” president reminiscent of former President of the Dominican Republic Leonel Fernandez, an American citizen. Unlike his predecessors, President Martelly has lived in the United States for many years not only as a musician, but also as a student who interacted with the Haitian community. He knows this community better than most if not all of his predecessors. When Martelly ran for President, the Haitian diaspora was visibly supportive, demonstrating that support with copious monetary donations to his campaign. Since his inauguration as President, the Haitian diaspora has been neglected, cast-out, and mistreated. Perhaps better information exchange could have discouraged this delinquency.

 Shortly after President Martelly took office, he authorized a $1.50 fee for each and every money transfer transaction into Haiti, and 5 cents for every incoming telephone call. According to the President, this money was needed to finance the education of Haiti’s children. I have spoken to many leaders from the diaspora, and I have yet to meet one who disagrees with the idea that the diaspora should assist in the financing of children’s education in Haiti. However, many of them complain about the lack of communication and transparency regarding the proposed fee. Thus far, the government has yet to publish any report on the funds. How much was collected? Who is the administrator of the funds? How are funds being spent? The least the government can do now is to publish a report informing the diaspora about the Education Fund. That would be a positive step towards collaboration with the diaspora, leading to other areas of cooperation more beneficial to Haiti and the legacy of President Martelly.

The Diaspora of any country is an immeasurable resource that when used properly can do wonders. Many countries such as Jamaica, Santo Domingo, and others have created great incentives to lure their diaspora to repatriate and invest in their country. Such investments have proven better than handouts from imperialist countries and blood sucking international organizations such as the World Bank, and USAID. These countries have found ways to make their diaspora a part of the political and social life force of the country.

 President Martelly never publicly stated his position when the amendment to the Haitian Constitution (granting members of the Haitian diaspora the right to vote) ratified by the Preval administration was published. However, he should seize the opportunity to (a) put a plan in place to effectuate said right, and (b) propose a new Amendment to replace the short sighted one that continues to restrict foreign passport holders from serving in the government or running for positions of president, senator, or deputy. The right to political participation is the first issue that must be resolved in order to foster a trusting relationship between the diaspora and the Haitian Government. The Martelly administration should consider another amendment to the Haitian constitution opening the door to all qualified within the diaspora who wish to fully engage politically. Many countries around the world including Israel, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Brazil have allowed their diaspora to participate fully in the administration of their governments. Haiti should do the same.

 President Martelly met recently in Port-au-Prince with Dr. Bernier Lauredan, Chairman of the Haitian Federation, and other members of the Haitian diaspora seeking to foster a better working relationship. While these meetings are necessary and important, any discussions should be based on full political and social participation. The president spoke often about building highways from Port-au-Prince to other parts of Haiti; he spoke often about creating small businesses, creating jobs, providing free education to our young citizens, and promoting tourism all in a secure environment. The diaspora can help to accomplish all of the above, but there must first be a plan of action. A few weeks ago, I sent an email to Dr. Pierre M. Pean and others suggesting to the President that a National Summit for the purpose of creating a blueprint for national development was needed. I am delighted to know that the President is discussing the idea, but if we are serious about full integration, we must take action with deliberate speed by first considering the following:

  1. (a)a plan to locate and provide voting cards to all Haitians in the diaspora
  2. (b)organizing and preparing for the diaspora’s participation in the next presidential election in 2016
  3. (c)creating a think tank of qualified Haitians to serve in different advisory committees with presidential and legislative recognition
  4. (d)and finally an economic advisory group charged with the mission of studying and preparing for the launch of a diaspora bond for the purposes of raising money for capital projects such as highway construction and trade centers around the country.

The Haitian diaspora loves Haiti and wants to contribute to its development. With reserve funds of over 700 billion dollars, with more Haitian doctors per capita in New York City than any other immigrant group except the Jews, with qualified professionals encompassing all sectors of the economy, the Haitian diaspora has the resources to make a huge difference in the lives of Haitians in Haiti, and around the world, but there are impediments. For this dream to become reality, President Martelly will need the support of every Haitian in the diaspora because there are two sectors in Haiti strongly opposed to diaspora participation: those who control commerce and business in Haiti, fearing competition, and governmental bureaucrats and corrupt politicians only interested in maintaining their current positions and lining their coffers.

President Martelly should start this campaign by participating in forum discussions in Miami, New York, Canada, and France to propose the plan to the larger public, and build trust and respect between the Haitian diaspora and the Martelly administration. President Martelly’s legacy depends on great achievements. Paving streets is hardly a Presidential “crowning achievement.” Creating opportunities for lasting change and economic stability is an ideal that President Martelly should espouse. His presidency depends on it, and no other group can help him achieve this more than the Haitian Diaspora, his natural ally.

Follow Manny on Twitter: @EJRManny
Mr. Roy is a former political advisor and Attorney to President Michel Joseph Martelly.
Follow Ms. Rocher on Twitter: @elenarocherpr

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