Haitian stakeholders participated in Jamaica talks on their country Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, says 66 Haitian stakeholders participated, virtually, in Monday’s discussions to find solutions amid the gang violence and spiralling social crisis in Haiti.

Johnson Smith was responding to concerns from some local and international observers on the perceived absence of Haitians from discussions in Kingston, as leaders from Caricom, the US and France explored a way forward for the country. 

She said the stakeholders represented “an inclusive cross-section” of members of Haiti’s civil society, private sector, religious communities, political parties, political representative bodies, and the Haitian diaspora.

“They had been part of discussions leading up to not only that meeting (on Monday), but for some period of time,” said Johnson Smith at Wednesday’s post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House, where she clarified issues related to Monday’s Caricom high-level meeting in Kingston.

She added: “The aim has always been to have a Haitian-owned and a Haitian-led solution, and this is, in fact, what was announced on Monday.” 

Coming out of those discussions, officials, including Caribbean leaders and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, agreed to a joint proposal to establish a transitional council.

Armed members of the G9 and Family gang stand guard at their roadblock in the Delmas 6 neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday, March 11, 2024. (Photo: AP)

In noting reports from some media sources that Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry has already resigned, Johnson Smith said “the resignation takes effect upon establishment of the transitional presidential council and the naming of a new interim prime minister.” 

The transitional council will also appoint Haiti’s new council of ministers that will ultimately establish the provisional electoral council, which can then define the process for elections. 

“The intention has always been to not create a power vacuum, or create problems. The aim has been to facilitate a path back to elections,” Johnson Smith said. 

Speaking to other roles and functions of the transitional council, Johnson Smith said it will hold and exercise the powers of the Haitian presidency during the transitional period until an elected government is established.

Further, the council is not Caricom-designed, as it was formed as part of a proposal by other stakeholder groups across the entire period of engagement and consultation. 

“So, it (the council) is (a) Haitian-owned, Haitian-led solution, which is consistent with the norms and conventions of their (Haiti’s) constitution,” Johnson Smith pointed out.

She did not provide a date as to when the process of naming the members of the transitional council will be completed. 

“I can’t give a timeline. I can say that to the best of my knowledge, they are working on the names and they are close…,” she said.

She elaborated: “My understanding is that there is strong motivation to reach an agreement on the membership.”

The urgent meeting in Jamaica was organised by Caricom, a regional trade bloc that has pressed for months for a transitional government in Haiti while violent protests in the country demanded Henry’s resignation.

Guyana President Irfaan Ali said on Monday that the transitional council would have seven voting members and two non-voting ones.

Those with votes include the Pitit Desalin party, run by former senator and presidential candidate Moïse Jean-Charles, who is now an ally of Guy Philippe, a former rebel leader who led a successful 2004 coup and was recently released from a US prison after pleading guilty to money laundering.

Also, with a vote is the EDE party of former Prime Minister Charles Joseph, the Fanmi Lavalas party, the December 21 coalition led by Henry, the Montana Accord group, and members of the private sector.

Haiti has been plagued by violence in which heavily armed gangs have burned police stations, attacked the main airport and raided two of the country’s biggest prisons. The raids resulted in the release of more than 4,000 inmates.

Scores of people have been killed, and more than 15,000 are homeless after fleeing neighbourhoods raided by gangs. Food and water are dwindling as stands and stores selling to Haitians run out of goods.

The main port in Port-au-Prince remains closed, impacting dozens of containers with critical supplies.