By MORGAN ADDERLEY
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Ministry of Foreign Affairs has told the Haitian Embassy in the Bahamas it will “not tolerate” the type of pronouncements a Haitian diplomat made earlier this week in reference to shanty town evictions, saying the comments “warranted the gravest concern” of the Bahamian government.
The strongly worded statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs came after Haitian government representative Karl Henri Chatelier told the media earlier this week of certain proposals that could be adopted instead of evicting shanty town residents on August 10. The ministry said based on Mr Chatelier’s comments, it appeared there was external interference in Bahamian domestic affairs.
In response, the Haitian Embassy has said “every effort would be made to ensure that the incident” does not happen again.
The press release was issued hours after Foreign Affairs Minister Darren Henfield told The Tribune it is “unusual” for diplomats to “inject” themselves into domestic policy, adding the government had not been contacted about the proposals prior to Mr Chatelier’s televised interview.
Earlier this week Mr Chatelier, Haitian Embassy first assistant secretary, told ZNS of the alternatives to eviction shanty town residents would like, while bettering the conditions of those areas.
However, Mr Henfield said he was unaware of the Mr Chatelier’s alternatives until he read the story in Tuesday’s Tribune.
Mr Chatelier’s suggestions included renovations that will bring shanty town residences up to building codes, leasing the land, and extending the eviction deadline.
The ministry said it called chargé d’affaires of the Embassy of the Republic of Haiti to its headquarters yesterday to address “matters of concern” relating to these comments.
“Rhoda M Jackson, acting permanent secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, spoke frankly and deliberately to Mr François Michel, the chargé d’affaires, indicating that the public statements accredited to Mr Karl Henri Chatelier, first secretary in the Haitian Embassy, warranted the gravest concern of the Bahamian government, particularly as the position of the Haitian government, as reported in his name, gave the Bahamian government a sense of external interference in its domestic affairs,” the statement noted.
“Ms Jackson emphasised the sensitivity of the shanty town programme, especially in the government’s attempt to have all communities in the Bahamas integrated. She further stressed that, although the Bahamian government had always worked extremely closely with the Haitian government, it would not tolerate the type of pronouncements reported in the aforementioned daily.
“Mr Michel stated that the embassy was fully cognizant and respectful of the sovereignty of the Bahamas and sincerely regretted the impression given in the article that there was any level of interference on the part of the Haitian government in the internal affairs of the Bahamian government. Mr Michel stressed that every effort would be made to ensure that the incident would not reoccur.
“The Haitian representative referred to the longstanding cordial relations that existed between our two nations and assured the acting permanent secretary that the embassy would continue to make every effort to enhance the excellent mutual relationship between the Commonwealth of the Bahamas and the Republic of Haiti, and would address immediately the concerns deriving from the article to a satisfactory end,” the ministry’s statement concluded.
Earlier yesterday, when asked if Mr Chatelier’s proposals have been officially brought to the government, Mr Henfield said no. The foreign affairs minister also said that the government was not made aware of them at all.
When asked if the government will consider the proposals, Mr Henfield said “no” it would not.
“Let me just clarify that, right,” he added. “I instructed my ministry to summon the Haitian emissary to come to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and explain the assertions that he made in the paper, explain the statements that he made.
“And I’m awaiting the report from my ministry to see what steps we will take.
“I did this yesterday (Tuesday) upon learning of the story that was published in your paper, The Tribune,” Mr Henfield continued.
“And so, it’s not usual for diplomats to inject themselves into domestic policy of other governments. That’s unusual. Without speaking to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – I was not aware of it.
“Because I’m the conduit for all diplomats in the Bahamas to come to the government of the Bahamas. And we’re not aware of anything that they have done on this at all,” Mr Henfield said.
In an interview broadcast Monday, the Haitian diplomat told ZNS shanty town residents are “willing to rebuild the shanty towns with their own possibilities.”
He also said: “They will respect all the requirements, like the electricity, waters – everything and give another face to the shanty town. And allow the government Bahamian to have the happy ending and them too to live in a better place.”
Purchasing or leasing the land is another option he wants the government to consider offering residents.
“They want to purchase or, if the government to allow them to, lease them, if they can have, if I can say, the accord, something that can allow them to stay on the land, and something legally. And they can pay every month, and they will rebuild the shanty town.”
Ultimately, the Haitian government official said the August 10 eviction deadline is too soon, and that relocations will take more time.
“August 10, I don’t think the shanty (towns) will be ready. Because there’s a lot of families, they were quiet since June and the beginning of July, because they know the house was safe. But since last week, the storm was begging for them.”
However, Mr Chatelier admitted that the residents want to improve their standard of living.
“They know their situation isn’t good,” he said. “And they know their condition is unsanitary. They don’t want to stay in that condition.”