The regional civil society on Tuesday presented a petition to Caricom Heads of Government denouncing a controversial court ruling in the Dominican Republic (DR) that could strip tens of thousands of persons – mostly of Haitian descent – of their DR citizenship
Presenting the petition, Professor Norman Girvan said Caricom has an “historic opportunity” to demonstrate its relevance to, and its caring for, the citizens of the region by resolving the issue, according to a press release yesterday from Caricom.
Girvan presented the petition to the Caricom Bureau of Heads at a meeting in Trinidad on behalf of Civil Society. The petition called on the leaders to take action against the Dominican Republic in a bid to alleviate the plight of the people of Haitian descent affected by the ruling. The Bureau, comprising Caricom Chair, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago; Michel Martelly, President of Haiti and Dr Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines along with Caricom Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque met on Tuesday in Port of Spain to discuss the issue.
Girvan who presented the petition along with Sunity Maharaj, Asha Kambon and Deacon Michael James told the Bureau that “we cannot let down our brothers and sisters in the Dominican Republic, integral members of the regional family.” The release said that he told the leaders that Caricom must present a united front on this issue, and speak with one voice.
The release noted that last week LaRocque had received a similar petition from a group comprising representatives from several organisations based in Guyana expressing solidarity with Haitian descendants on the issue. The petitioners included Haitian students pursuing courses at the University of Guyana.
In receiving Tuesday’s petition, the release said that Persad-Bissessar assured Girvan that the Heads of Government were “not giving up on the issue” while President Martelly thanked the group for their support. Gonsalves noted that Caricom had an “historic opportunity” to lead Latin America and the wider Caribbean region in showing that “everybody has a place in world humanity.”
Following the Bureau meeting on Tuesday, it was announced that Caricom was suspending consideration of the DR’s request for membership of the community and reviewing ties with it in other fora over the court ruling.
Apart from suspending consideration of the membership request, Caricom will review its relationship with the DR in other fora including that of CARIFORUM, CELAC and the OAS.
“It cannot be business as usual”, Caricom declared following the meeting.
The Caricom statement came despite a last-ditch effort by DR President Danilo Medina to stave off any drastic action. According to Persad-Bissessar’s speaking notes at a press conference following the bureau meeting, Medina sent a communication on Tuesday morning saying that the DR would not deport any of the persons affected by the ruling of the court and that measures would be taken to ensure that no one was deported. The Trinidad PM said that Caricom expects that these assurances will be honoured.
Caricom said it supports a planned visit of the Inter American Commission on Human Rights to the DR and will request an advisory opinion from the Inter American Court of Human Rights. The Community will also weigh the introduction of a Resolution at the United Nations General Assembly condemning the ruling.