By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
PROGRESSIVE Liberal Party (PLP) leader Philip “Brave” Davis yesterday criticised the Minnis administration for its silence amid international backlash regarding US President Donald Trump’s disparaging comments about Haiti, African nations and El Salvador.
As Haiti is the current chair of CARICOM – the Caribbean Community – and a sister country to the Bahamas, Mr Davis said he thought by now the government would have come out in support of Haiti or indicated some degree of its displeasure about President Trump’s reported remarks.
He said the government has the responsibility in matters like this to lead in responding.
This comes days after CARICOM said it was deeply concerned by the reported use of Mr Trump’s “derogatory and repulsive language.” It further condemned “in the strongest terms” the unenlightened views reportedly expressed by the US president.
“I would hope (and) I wouldn’t want to read anything sinister into it, but one would have thought that recognising that Haiti today holds the chair of the CARICOM community that they would have at least offered some kind of support for its fellow CARICOM country and/or seek to indicate displeasure or otherwise of the reported comments,” Mr Davis said in response to a question from The Tribune.
“I think that a government has the responsibility to lead the responses in matters of this nature and I think this government in particular has the responsibility (and it) is heightened more because of our own interaction with the people of Haiti.”
Earlier in his remarks and during a press conference at the PLP’s headquarters, Mr Davis said his party stands in support of CARICOM’s position.
“The government ought to state its position on it because it impacts one of our CARICOM sister countries and it also speaks to the wider global issues that impact us as a nation,” he said.
“We do though wish to indicate that we ought not to confuse the official policies of the Bahamas with the dehumanising of the people of Haiti and the descriptions reportedly made by the head of the US government. Of course, we don’t see that there is any moral equivalent otherwise between the two.
“Our issues with our neighbour, a CARICOM country, are different than those that would decry the message that was sent from the statements reported and we whole heartedly support the statement made by CARICOM in that regard,” he continued.
The regional body over the weekend said it was also “deeply saddened” that the alleged comments emerged around the anniversary of the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake “which took the lives of so many.”
“Of additional concern, is this pattern of denigrating Haiti and its citizens in what seems to be a concerted attempt to perpetuate a negative narrative of the country. We are especially saddened that such narrative emerged around the time of the anniversary of the devastating 2010 earthquake which took so many lives of citizens in that country,” the statement released on Saturday noted.
“The Caribbean Community expresses its full support for the dignified statement of the government of the Republic of Haiti in reaction to this highly offensive reference. It should be recalled that Haiti is the second democracy in the Western Hemisphere after the United States and that Haitians continue to contribute significantly in many spheres to the global community and particularly to the United States of America. CARICOM therefore views this insult to the character of the countries named and their citizens as totally unacceptable.”
When contacted for comment Sunday, Foreign Affairs Minister Darren Henfield said the Bahamas is a part of CARICOM and “we speak with one voice”.
He declined further comment on the US president’s reported remarks.
Other international organisations including the UN and the African Union, politicians and people from African countries and the Caribbean are outraged over President Trump’s latest remarks, deemed “racist” by some.
The Washington Post first reported President Trump criticised immigration to the United States from El Salvador, Haiti and Africa calling the group “s*hole countries.”
This was later corroborated by other US media outlets and one Democratic lawmaker who was in the White House meeting at the time.
According to CNN, citing people with knowledge of the conversation, Mr Trump allegedly asked: “Why are we having all these people from s*hole countries come here?” at a meeting with Congress members at the White House.
He also suggested the US should instead focus its immigrant entry policy on countries such as Norway.
On Friday Mr Trump denied the “racist” remarks, tweeting that the language he used “was tough, but this was not the language used,” as he called for a “merit-based system of immigration and people who take our country to the next level.”
He later tweeted that he has “never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously a very poor and troubled country.”
However, according to international reports, Dick Durbin, a Democratic senator who attended the meeting, disputed Mr Trump’s statement.
“He said these hate-filled things and he said them repeatedly,” Mr Durbin told US reporters.
The White House did not directly challenge the authenticity of Mr Trump’s comments, but issued a statement saying: “Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people.”