Sunday, April 21, 2024

Time to shame UN on stand against Haitians

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IT’S MORE than six weeks since it became public knowledge to the Caribbean Community that the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, had conveyed the very shocking decision to the President of Haiti, Michel Martelly, of the world body’s rejection of compensation claims affecting 5 000 Haitian cholera victims.
But to this day, as far as this columnist is aware, there has been no official public reaction to the UN’s callous position to evade its moral responsibility and, instead, summon to its rescue “legal immunity” against the compensation claims by these victims of a cholera epidemic that has already killed an estimated 8 000 Haitians and with approximately 200 new cases being reported daily as of last month.
Except for the former Prime Minister of Jamaica, P.J. Patterson, who has often served as a CARICOM special adviser on Haiti, there continues to be a deafening public silence within our 15-member Community, starting from President Martelly.
Why? He, at least, would be in possession of the dossier submitted back  in November 2011 to the UN Secretary General’s office by the Institute for Justice and Democracy, a Boston-based human rights organization.
What makes this situation even more dreadful is the general awareness, beyond our Caribbean region, that there exists scientific evidence of more than two years ago of the cholera epidemic being linked to then serving UN peace-keeping soldiers from Nepal.
As Mr Patterson told me in a telephone interview last month, “it is simply appalling, a most reprehensible behaviour for the UN to claim immunity against compensation, the moreso when scientific evidence substantiates that the cholera epidemic was originally introduced in Haiti at the time by peace-keeping soldiers from Nepal under UN command…”
Well, having kept his public silence since learning from Ban Ki-Moon of the rejection of compensation claims for the Haitian cholera victims, it was felt that President Martelly would have taken the opportunity of his official two-day visit to Guyana last month to primarily meet with Secretary General of CARICOM Irwin LaRocque, to least offer a brief public comment on the painful, controversial stand by the UN.
No such luck.  
This is all the more insensitive when the President of Haiti ought to know that for a grave human rights issue such as this, the preferred option should at least be a public statement of concern in favour of the rights of the cholera victims. Certainly not public relations talk about “engagement” with the UN and unwillingness to say even that much publicly before returning to Haiti. This is not a matter for quiet diplomacy. It’s a time for crying “shame” and urging “justice”.
• Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist. Email rickeys@sunbeach.net.

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