No to Garry Conille as prime minister of Haiti!

Gary Conille.jpg

By Yves Pierre-Louis, Haiti Liberté, published on Sept 14, 2011
Translated from the French by Dady Chery

(Since the following article was written, the Parliament of Haiti voted by 89-0 on September 16 to accept the nomination by President Michel Martelly of Garry Conille to serve as the the prime minister of Haiti. The nomination now requires the approval of the Senate of Haiti.)

On Thursday September 8, 2011, President Joseph Michel Martelly's third choice for prime-minister, Dr. Garry Conille, filed his documents for the position with the office of the Chamber of Deputies of the 49th Legislature. Meanwhile, discussions are heating up in the media about his residency because he left the country for seven years to serve in the United Nations. Two days later, on Saturday, Sept. 10th, there was an altercation at the Hotel Karibe Convention Center between the prime minister designate and members of President Martelly's cabinet.

And what was the basis of this incident? According to released information, Martelly cabinet chief Thierry Paul Mayard, together with the president's wife, Sophia Martelly, and presidential advisers including Patrick Rouzier, all flanked by a commando, arrived at the hotel where the Prime Minister designate was participating in a private-sector business forum. He was pressured to sign a blank letter of resignation prior to his ratification as prime minister. This was a shameless political stunt never seen in the annals of political practice in Haiti, or anywhere else. Such a letter would allow President Martelly to force a resignation of the future prime minister should circumstances arise.

Apparently, the Prime Minister designate categorically refused this threat and even considered withdrawing his name from the ratification process. He cancelled his scheduled meeting with the forum. Following this altercation, various sources reported intense telephone communications between the two sides. According to our latest information, the Prime Minister designate met on the same day with the President and the situation, it seems, was normalized. The President reassured Conille that the presidency would never have decided to make him sign such a letter or any other document as a precondition for his accession to the prime ministerial post. Who, then, was the instigator of this unfortunate, shameful, and pathetic initiative?

Would Thierry Mayard Paul and the others have taken it upon themselves to indulge in a maneuver so disgraceful and absurd? If so, then sanctions should immediately be taken against the alleged impostors. After the incident on Saturday at the Karibe, no official statement was issued to explain what had actually happened. Some are still criticizing those in Martelly's entourage who oppose his choice. Such was also the case for his first two candidates for Prime Minister.

On the other hand, questions about the residency of the Prime Minister designate continue to be a source of controversy in the Haitian Parliament and among the traditional political class and the middle men of the legal profession. Some point, to good effect, to the Haitian Constitution of 1987, others refer to rules and regulations of the U.N., according to which officials from that organization do not change their country of residency when they work abroad. So, between the legal prescriptions of the mother country and the laws of a global organization, which ones should be applied to Garry Conille's dossier?

By all evidence, the Haitian Constitution of 1987 is clear on this. Paragraph 5 of Article 157 states: "Residency in the country for five (5) consecutive years." However, during the past seven years, Prime Minister designate Garry Conille was not in the country, which constitutes a real obstacle to his ratification. It is true that President Martelly said, "Before proposing Mr. Conille, I consulted my legal team," but he did not specify the roles played by former U.S. President Bill Clinton in this selection. Some say it was forced on Martelly.

Amidst all this, former presidential candidate and professor of constitutional law Mirlande Manigat Hyppolite pointed out the difference between an official of an international institution and a diplomat. She insists that that the law mother of the nation should be respected.  She explained: "As concerns the conditions listed under Article 157 on residency, I listened with great interest to the statements made here, there and everywhere. The status of an international civil servant is not that of a diplomat, nor is it the status of a Haitian who is representing Haiti in an international organization. Eric Pierre, for example, was twice proposed for Prime Minister; he represented Haiti at the Inter American Development Bank (IDB), so he benefited from the so-called extraterritoriality enjoyed by diplomats. A diplomat by definition, does not live in Haiti; he represents his country and benefits from the principle of extraterritoriality. On other hand, Haitians working in international organizations? NO. They do not have diplomatic status and do not benefit from the principle of extraterritoriality," she explained.

In the Parliament, opinion is divided; self-interest seems to outweigh the best interests of the nation and the laws of the Republic. The chairman of the majority bloc in the Chamber of Deputies is prepared to give his vote to the Prime Minister designate. Referring to the principles of international law, he said that Garry Conille can stay in Niger as an officer of the U.N. all the while resident in Haiti. He also cited a set of conventions and U.N. resolutions in favor the Prime Minister designate. For his part Senate chairman Joazile Rodolph said: "Today, the atmosphere is more or less relaxed, and if  Mr. Conille meets the constitutional requirements, I think he will not have much difficulty being ratified by the Senate."

The coordinator of the political platform INITE, the majority bloc in the Senate and leader of the group of 16 that defeated the ratification of Martelly's second Prime Minister pick, Bernard Gousse, raised the possibility of a ratification of Garry Conille if he meets the constitutional requirements and political criteria. But doubts and suspicions remain very high.

The senator from Nippes, John William Jeanty, for his part, does not hide his position: Garry Conille does not meet the desired criteria for a Prime Minister. He said: "I cannot say that the Prime Minister designate represents the consensus we are seeking. He does not reflect what was discussed in the various sectors, he does not meet the profile of someone over whom we could reach a consensus. Clearly there's a fly in the ointment, so he is not the right choice. There are also problems with his dossier.  They say he has not resided in Haiti since 2004 and does not work in Haiti. So, he has no residence in Haiti, it seems that he is not [a home owner], and he does not pay taxes here ..."

The Vice President of the Senate is standing firm on his position; he has reiterated that he will not vote for a candidate who fails to comply with the letter of the constitution, which requires residency in the country for at least five years in order for a Haitian citizen to qualify as prime minister.

The leader of the Papaye Peasant Movement (MPP) Chavannes Jean Baptiste goes further. He says that this ratification would be a total abandonment of what remains of Haiti's national sovereignty. He protests against foreign interference in the appointment of a U.N. official whose presence on the political spectrum would be aimed at consolidating a trusteeship over Haiti. He also condemns the flagrant violation of Article 157 of the Constitution, whose provisions regarding the number of years of residency are incompatible with the current situation of the Prime Minister designate.

It is clear that in Haiti today there is a shadow government, with the presence of former U.S. President Bill Clinton in the National Palace and at the head of a so-called "Presidential Advisory Council for Economic Development and Investment." It is no secret to informed people that the invisible hand of Bill Clinton is in the appointment of Garry Conille. What's more, Conille directed Clinton's offices as co-chair of the Interim Commission for the Reconstruction of Haiti (IHRC) and Special Envoy of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. To impose Garry Conille as Prime Minister, all the country's laws will have to be violated in the interests of the imperialist powers and the big, local predators.

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