Durandis: A Friendly Divorce in Haiti

By: Caribbean Journal Staff - August 15, 2012

By Ilio Durandis
CJ Contributor

Change, reshuffle, restart or reset, it is all a clear sign that the Martelly-Lamothe team is still trying to navigate the Haitian political landscape in order to turn their promises and slogans to reality for the population.

On May 14th of this year, Laurent Lamothe was ratified by parliament and officially became the successor to Garry Conille, who resigned this post in late February.

It took the Haitian parliament more than a month to go over all of Mr Lamothe’s documents before they could even start the ratification procedures. At the end, despite all the doubts and suspicions of the documents, Mr Lamothe received favourable votes in both the lower chamber and the Senate to become Haiti’s Prime Minister.

From the designation to the actual ratification, the Prime Minister had plenty of time to evaluate the people that he wanted in his ministerial cabinet. For the most part, he had decided to keep some of the most influential members of Conille’s cabinet in the same position — such was the case with Thierry Mayard-Paul at the ministry of Interior, Reginald Paul at Education, Stephanie Villedrouin at tourism and himself at foreign affairs, to cite just a few.

On the eve of Aug. 6th, shortly after 11 PM, The Prime Minister’s Facebook page and twitter account read:  “I conducted a cabinet reshuffle approved by the President of the Republic, His Excellency, Mr Joseph Michel Martelly.”

The news signals another beginning for the Martelly-Lamothe team. Strategically, it is not yet clear what is about to change. But the message being sent with the reshuffling, mainly by firing one of the most influential and powerful members of the president’s team, Thierry Mayard-Paul, minister of interior, is without a doubt a clear indication that there is no room for any super-Ministre, but one, on this team.

Along with Thierry Mayard-Paul, also removed from the cabinet were Reginald Paul and Ronald Toussaint, ministers of Interior, Education and Environment respectively. They all served in their respective positions under Mr Garry Conille.

It is house cleaning in the midst of the summer. Now that Lamothe has gotten rid of his apparent biggest internal rival, Thierry Mayard-Paul, all focus must shift on practical delivery and no more self-inflated government projects, which barely address the real need of the population.

In Haitian politics, loyalty after being fired in a political post is as rare as finding a penguin in Haiti. When Haitian politicians get axed, they often have two options—leave politics entirely or join the opposition. In Mayard-Paul’s case, it as not yet clear, which of these two options will best suit him.

For Mayard-Paul, it was to rejoin the government, which he did in short order, being named a “private advisor” to President Martelly last weekend.

In Haiti, often, rumours are more believable than supposed facts. Long before Thierry Mayard-Paul was fired, there have been numerous rumors of him and the Prime Minister in-fighting for being the kingpin of the government.

Mayard-Paul had found his niche and the blessings of the president, not simply because he was the latter’s childhood friend, but because out of all the trusted and qualified people within the president’s circle, he was one of the few, who has resided long enough in Haiti, and has had some experience dealing with the politicians and the population.

In short, politically speaking, he knew the political landscape and his expertise were needed to get the government rolling. Innovatively, Mayard Paul was quietly touring every department, while presenting his Ministry’s Katye Pam Poze (KPP) project. While Prime Minister Lamothe was selling his brand overseas, looking for foreign investors to come invest in Haiti, Mayard-Paul was strategically cementing his brand in Haiti’s rural areas.

To come back on the rumour mill, words in many corners had it that both Prime Minister Lamothe and Mr Mayard-Paul are positioning themselves for the presidential elections in 2015.

Both men are very ambitious, and on the outside looking in, they both seemed to be very tactical, hard working, and analytical. It was just a matter of time for the separation to happen.

As the Creole proverb goes, “de gran moun pa ret nan menm kay,” “two adults cannot rule a household.” The president’s team just had one too many adults. As stated earlier, it is not clear what the huge benefits are to replace these ministers, but inserting individuals with no real track records or significant accomplishments in powerful positions can only lead to one conclusion: consolidation of power.

It could be a way for the Prime Minister to get things done his way with as little restraint as possible and to make himself even more powerful than before. There is always great danger for a political team to be assembled of people who cannot stand up to their superior, or who cannot put forth their own vision.

The house cleaning might not be done, yet. When Prime Minister Lamothe presented his political vision to members of Parliament, he centralized it around five key components, famously called the five Es: Environment, Energy, Education, Employment and State of law. Three of the ministers supposedly who should have been partly responsible for three of those Es are now out, and the one responsible for labor is now shifted to the post vacated from the expulsion of Mayard-Paul.

The theorem that a solution should not create new problem within the problem will now be put to test. It’s possible that for the sake of the fragile state of the country, the departed ministers will stay out of politics, and keep their egos in check, so that the Martelly-Lamothe team can lead the people to victory, which will all but guarantee a Lamothe presidency in 2016.

In a worst-case scenario, the humiliation of being dismissed from the team would prove to be too much to bear, and former friends would become new enemies, and secrets that should have never been public might become available to all.

In politics, especially Haitian politics, where loyalty and national interest are rarely a priority for those involved, there is certainly no such thing as a friendly divorce. Prime Minister Lamothe may seem to have a winning hand right now, but the game has only just begun.

What one does in marriage is not an indication of how one will behave in divorce. The clock keeps ticking, the people are watching, and the international community is taking notes. The reshuffling of the cabinet must deliver the goods, and time is of the essence. A potential powerful opponent is waiting on the wings to make a move.

Ilio Durandis, a Caribbean Journal contributor, is the founder of Haiti 2015, a social movement for a just and prosperous Haiti. He is also a columnist with The Haitian Times.

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