Durandis: As Garry Conille Exits, Haiti Heads Toward a Fish-Tail Ending
Above: Garry Conille at the installation of his cabinet (Photo: OP)
By Ilio Durandis
Early on in life, I was taught one thing about fish: don’t mess with the tail. In Haiti, the saying of “queue poisson” is often used for a situation that has no good outcome. By any logic, it is almost implausible to see Haiti come out of this current political mayhem a winner. Not that I want to be a pessimist, but the current seeds of political leaders have the makings of a disastrous forest.
The country cannot be crisis-free for any extended period of time. When it is not the roar of nature, it’s the inherent disruptive behaviour of either the population or its self-serving politicians. Haiti is a land with so much potential and beauty, and yet is home to some of the most self-hating people on this planet. The paradox of developing the country has everything to do with finding its common destiny and building an all-inclusive society.
In order to understand why Garry Conille, a man of international experience and great intelligence, could not run the show for more than four months in Haiti, we must ask ourselves some basic questions about what it takes to lead that country.
Obviously, opponents of Conille would point to his lack of “real” Haitian political experience, but yet those same people would be quick to give a pass to a president with no such credentials. So it is clear that it is not Conille’s actual Haitian political experience that doomed his government. If the latter is not the case, then why did, all of a sudden, he find himself obliged to resign from one of the most powerful posts in the nation?
The answers are still murky. There are reports that link his resignation to ongoing investigation by a parliamentary commission into the citizenship of some of the members of his late government, including the current president, Michel Martelly, and Conille’s determination to investigate or audit at least $300 million dollars of contracts given to Dominican firms in the closing hours of the reign of his predecessor, Jean-Max Bellerive, a cousin of the President. Just like a fish, there is the head and the tail, but it is usually the stuff in between that matters most.
From the beginning, this co-habitation of Martelly-Conille was odd. Before Conille was selected as a candidate for the Prime Minister’s job, the President barely knew him. And anyone who is familiar with President Martelly would admit that he is a man who believes in his inner circle of close friends, and unfortunately Conille is not part of that circle, and probably has never gotten an invite to join. It was a selection that the President had to accept after his two previous choices, Gerard Rouzier and Bernard Gousse, both failed to garner enough support in parliament. By the time Conille came around in late September of last year, the president was already in power for four months with no government to run his programme.
The president made a concession to get things rolling, or, as it becomes better known as of late, “dekole,” to take off, by accepting Conille to lead the government. All the important cabinet posts were chosen by the President’s inner circle. Even the portfolio of Planning, which Conille wanted to keep himself, was wrestled away from him at the last minute. The plan was simply to use him to get the jet ready for take-off, and once things seemed stable enough, to dump him. Sadly, this divorce was planned from the start, but the separation might have come a bit too soon.
The only impression that Conille left during his short tenure was that he wanted to follow certain normal protocols and govern with as much transparency as he could. Hard-core Haitian politics do not tolerate either of those two principles.
When he was presenting his general politics to members of parliament in October of last year after his ratification, he came across as someone who really wanted to find out why the reconstruction could not take off, and at the same time pledged to execute some of the President’s campaign promises, such as job creation, free primary education and so forth.
In Haiti, no matter who the president is at a specific time, there has always been this unwritten rule that certain things are better left alone. Whether it is the deaths of prominent people or deals gone wild, one simply does not talk of audits or investigations. We had the case of Jean Dominique, a prominent radio journalist, Petrocaribe, Teleco and now these contracts.
It was already mentioned by some members of the parliamentary commission that at least two members of the Conille government had a citizenship other than Haitian. While the President was on a trip at Davos, one of his spokespersons had said that the President demanded the resignation of any member of his government with a citizenship other than Haitian. That was in late January. Up to this time, no one from the Conille cabinet had ever come forward.
The investigation into citizenship continues, but with the exit of the Prime Minister, who will Parliament investigate now? According to the Haitian constitution, with the resignation of the Prime Minister, the whole cabinet is disbanded.
Conille’s departure clears the way for President Martelly to once again try to appoint someone from his inner circle, someone whom he can trust to take charge of the Villa d’Acceuil, the Office of the Prime Minister. Literally, someone who will not waste time trying to audit past deals or go against the President’s personal agenda for the country.
The next Prime Minister will be someone who has been one of the architects of this “Haiti taking off” slogan, and, like the leader, will not bother to tell any of the passengers where they’re heading, because, at the end of the day, the victory will be for the people.
As the President gave a speech to the nation to address the Prime Minister’s resignation, he did not bother to give access to any member of the national press. At this point, it is debatable if that one-minute speech was even live. Not that it matters, but an issue of such national importance should not be treated as if it only concerns the President. After all, this is a republic; ius populi must be respected.
The Haitian people must believe that the country is taking off by trusting their leader because, after all, the leader says so. In the meantime, journalists cannot ask questions that seem to be pertinent to the leader.
Former soldiers have found the gut to occupy former military bases. An ongoing, nonsensical citizenship investigation to nowhere continues. Former foes are becoming friends, and friends, foes. The tents are still there, petroleum is scarce, mayors are being fired, and the only prospects for jobs are the factory sweatshops supposedly coming in the North.
The international community even wants elections in the spring, even though there is still no constitutional body to organize such elections, to renew a third of the senate and some local offices. This has all the makings of an indigestive ending. Beware of the fish tail — because nothing good ever comes out of it.
Ilio Durandis, a Caribbean Journal contributor, is the founder of Haiti 2015, a social movement for a just and prosperous Haiti. He is a columnist with The Haitian Times.