EDITORIAL 2 – 9 novembre 2016

In the wake of Matthew, the Privert-Jean-Charles team shaken by incompetence and corruption

In the wake of Hurricane Matthew, the political discourse centers on the incompetence of the government team in managing the humanitarian assistance.There’s much finger pointing at the officials who failed to set up structures destined to help areas and communities where there is the greatest need for assistance. Besides incompetence, Haiti’s leadership is accused of corruption following the most devastating hurricane of the season, which caused considerable damage in the Greater South, the Southeast and Norwest departments. But such accusations don‘t seem to worry the interim Executive, which gives the impression of indulging in the impunity usually enjoyed by members of every Haitian administration.

The controversial candidate to the Senate for the department of Grande-Anse, Guy Philippe, didn’t mince words when he used the social media to denounce the indifference of the central government toward the victims of Pestel, his hometown. He said humanitarian aid has been awfully slow to reach Pestel and the Grand’Anse department in general where 80% of the houses are roofless from the violent effects of the winds.

The fury of heavy rains and raging waters have done further damage and decimated entire crops on which the people depend to survive and export elsewhere, including the capital. The idea of corruption existing at the highest levels of the Privert-Jean-Charles administration resonates strong ly, especially with the critics of interim President Jocelerme Privert whom they swear to remove from power because his term had expired last June 14.

Following a surprise visit last week at the SONAPI industrial park in Port-au-Prince, Senator Youri Latortue fanned the idea of corruption related to the distribution of aid to the victims of Matthew. Accompanied by his colleague Jacques “Jackito” Sauveur Jean, Senator Latortue was checking on the veracity of a rumor about construction materials destined to the victims of the hurricane in the Greater South being stored at the SONAPI. In fact, the Senators saw lumber of various sizes, nails, sheet-metal plates for roof ing and similar items stored in the courtyard of the SONAPI for about three weeks. The Interior Ministry, which is responsible for these materials, showed no eagerness to deliver the items to the victims impatiently waiting for help supposedly coming from Port-au-Prince. Understandably, the impatience of the suffering victims knew no bounds when they heard through press reports that tons of products donated by the international community were being hoarded by the authorities. Meanwhile, the officials attribute this mishap to impassable roads linking the capital to the affected areas. In this case, how do they explain the safe arrival of trucks carrying materials to repair the Cathedral in Les Cayes, the capital of the Southern Department ?

It‘s curious and worrying that Interior Minister François Anick Joseph, formerly a senator from the Artibonite who was previously a priest, would show such disregard for the victims of Matthew. The Minister’s attitude triggered a strong response from Senator Latortue, of the Artibonite. In comments made last week in Parliament and widely reported by journalists, the Senator spared no words in exposing his grievances against his former colleague.

To one question put to him as to what he would expect from the Interior Minister, Mr. Latortue exploded by saying : “We don‘t ask him to make miracles, but we ask him at least to allow minimal support to be offered to the population. . . . It hurts me to see that the almighty Minister of the Interior can find money for anonymous bonds he gives to whomever; that he can find funds to reward his supporters when he feels at risk; that he can get cash from the issuance of passports for ulterior purposes; that he can even monopolize the Ministry‘s intelligence budget to do what he wants. But he can‘t allow distribution of sheet-metal to citizens who are desperately waiting.”

Senator Latortue went on: “This Minister refuses to allow distribution of food stored locally to the victims, [fails] to unclog the roads, and organize water supply to disaster areas. He can hold endless meetings, discuss indefinitely with all the players in Port-au-Prince, but he will not bother to pay the salaries of state officials in the communal sections.”

Senator Latortue is even more critical of Minister Joseph, equating what he’s done to a crime of neglect of the victims. He said, “Today we miss ed the opportunity to make Minister Anick understand that not coming to the rescue of a person in danger is a crime. But the last word is yet to be said.”

While there’s much speculation from all sides to explain the reasons for the aid not being delivered to hurricane victims, some parliamentarians have accused Minister Joseph of bribing members of the majority in the Senate to scuttle a session where he would have faced the music. A more competent person, said the Senator, is needed to manage the Ministry of Interior during this time of emergency caused by Hurricane Matthew. Thus, he intends to make all efforts to remove Anick Joseph from his post.

The facts seem to prove that the Privert-Jean-Charles administration rests on corruption and incompetence. By doing very little to combat these two scourges, and by not reining in officials who practice them, the Executive leaves itself opened to the conclusion that the highest authorities of the land have no problem coexisting with them. Thus, the Haitian people through their power at the ballot box must oust the incompetent and corrupt leaders.

Cet article est publié par Haïti Observateur; VoL. XXXXVI, no. 40 New York, P.10 / 2 nov. 2016