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HAITI: A different world is our must


Whether it was during the 200 plus years since the Republic of Haiti broke the back of French, British and Spanish lust for sugar and slaves, or during the 2 years since an earthquake tore apart Port au Prince and parts of Southern Haiti, the world in which the Haitian people struggle is the same. Cruel and greedy.{{more}}

A different world is our must. The Haitian nation is the original Caribbean nation in this modern world. She is our big sister, and family is supposed to care about family members. More than that, when we look into our big sister’s affairs, we will meet up with some issues that we too need to worry about.

No, I will not bring up the meaningless statistics to show how many people perished and how many homes were destroyed. Millions and thousands are just words in our ears now; they don’t reach our hearts or imagination. Even to conjure up pictures of Tomas, the river floods and black sigatoka in our own recent past, doesn’t bring our sister’s crisis close to us. When, in a BBC report, one doctor shared with us that a person with cholera can lose 5 gallons of fluid via diarrhea in one day, and that a permanent hole has to be made in the bed or cot to facilitate the diseased flushings, or that villagers infected with cholera sometimes have to crawl (or be brought) 10 or 20 miles to the nearest health centre to receive treatment, can our minds and bodies really take it in? And then when people suggest and claim that the United Nations (UN) has a “peace keeping” contingent which introduced the disease, it seems to lead to a budget debate – a whole heap of agreement and no remedial action. Man, don’t wait for proof; get the UN group out of the place quicker than lightening. And we sit down on our comfortable toilet seats and allow our sisters and brothers – without a proper CWSA supply of water – to perish so! A different world is our must. It must come and we must come to it.

Look at a more normal or familiar abuse. “Cash for work” is a programme which gives disaster victims a 2-week or 4-week job, at minimum wage levels, (EC $13.00 a day) to sustain their livelihoods. The Haitian government requested US $200 million to provide 200,000 jobs a day, for 18 months, following the earthquake. The government put up a very sensible case, stressing the self-reliance and dignity which such a programme would offer the disaster victims. A good project, even in a place like our own SVG can be executed in an abusive way. In Haiti, where the demand for such relief work was more than the offering, the abuse was criminal. The relief workers had to pay the foreman to get their names on the list, and then to pay out of their earning in order to keep the job. A further abuse has the bosses demanding sex from female workers before and during the time on the job. And there is the discrimination which the foremen employ when selecting persons. Relatives, friends and underlings get priority employment. Not because it sounds like something that can happen in SVG does it become acceptable. Injustice in Haiti is injustice everywhere.

The reconstruction plan for Haiti raises another set of concerns. Speaking to a Japanese audience, Caricom special representative on Haiti, Hon. PJ Patterson, said to them “The magnitude of the economic, infrastructural and institutional losses suffered by Haiti on January 12th, 2010, makes reconstruction one of the largest investment opportunities in the world”. Please read Mr Patterson’s words again for me. Of course Mr Patterson is only echoing the words of others like Haitian President Martelly and former US President Clinton. The billions of dollars which the disaster attracted to Haiti are building massive new factory zones for overseas companies to occupy Haitian labour for supplying US retailers like Wall Mart, Target and others. That sounds quite acceptable, except that it seems that Haitian wage levels today are lower than under the Duvalier years. Over half of average daily wage goes for lunch and transportation. This “Sweatshop” development model has not led to development. The list of the drawbeats of this reconstruction model is distressing. It all adds up to a conclusion that a different words is a must for us. Can it be done? Hear how Sister Paula Facibie OSB addresses us on this matter of what is doable. “Everyday we are silently asked: do you believe in the Son of God?”

He made a different world doable.