OUR OPINION: President must make good on promise to unite the country
By The Miami Herald Editorial
No one expected miracles when performer Michel Martelly became president of post-earthquake Haiti. But more than two months after taking office, the former entertainer’s slow and disappointing start has become a major worry for foreign donors, who are dropping broad hints that the stalemate in government has become an obstacle to Haiti’s recovery.
On Friday, the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission marked the one-year anniversary of its initial meeting last summer and issued a generally positive report about progress in rebuilding the country after the disaster that nearly devastated Port-au-Prince and left more than 300,000 dead. But between the facts and figures outlining the first, halting steps toward reconstruction, it was clear that the international community is growing impatient with the petty politics keeping the government practically paralyzed and the task of rebuilding on hold.
“It is necessary to put aside differences and collaborate in the process of rebuilding the country,” the donor countries said in a joint statement. “Otherwise, Haiti’s foreign partners will not be able to help it reach its goals.”
Mr. Martelly and the rest of Haiti’s elected leaders, particularly those in Parliament, should take this as a pointed warning. Unless they get their act together, Haiti’s foreign friends will be powerless to help the country recover.
Mr. Martelly’s first task should be to consult with Parliament to find a candidate for prime minister who can put together a working government. Indeed, he should have done this from Day One instead of wasting precious time trying to get Parliament to approve someone just on his say-so.
His first choice, Daniel-Gerard Rouzier, was rejected last month because legislative leaders believed he might have renounced his nationality at one time. Then Mr. Martelly nominated Bernard Gousse, a former justice minister with a dodgy reputation. Almost immediately, 16 members of the 30-seat Senate declared they would oppose this nomination, as well, and Mr. Martelly groused that would lead to a six-month delay in creating a new government.
That’s unacceptable. Moreover, it’s unnecessary. There are plenty of candidates who have the right experience and politically acceptable credentials to win confirmation and take on the task of managing the government on a day-to-day basis. They may not be members of Mr. Martelly’s political faction, but that shouldn’t matter. The crucial element is finding someone who can get the job done.
The failure to get a working government in place is most noticeable — and most critical — in the realm of housing. Haiti still lacks a sensible, coherent and practical strategy for getting an estimated 600,000 or so homeless people into permanent housing.
Recently, authorities closed a makeshift camp inside the Sylvio Cator Stadium in Port-au-Prince, where more than 400 families had been living. Each of the evicted families was given the equivalent of about $250, but they have no place to go. This brought an immediate rebuke from the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which said the lack of a comprehensive housing policy made Haitians more vulnerable.
Mr. Martelly campaigned on a promise of uniting the country. If he doesn’t make good on that promise soon, the suspicion that he’s not up to the task will only grow stronger.