Above: Haiti President Michel Martelly (CJ Photo)
By Alexander Britell
Haiti President Michel Martelly has begun his six-month term as Chairman of the Caribbean Community’s Conference of Heads of Government, vowing to “accelerate” Haiti’s inclusion in the regional integration movement.
This marks the first time that Haiti, the largest country in the Caribbean Community by population, has assumed the CARICOM Chairmanship. Former President Rene Preval had been slated to chair CARICOM in 2010; due to Haiti’s earthquake in 2010, Jamaica assumed the Chairmanship instead.
Martelly, who succeeds St Lucia Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony in the post, said Haiti would encourage a policy of sustainable development based on the promotion of a green economy.
Since his election as Haiti’s President in 2011, Martelly has addressed CARICOM issues on several occasions that could give hints of his priorities for the next six months.
At a press conference in Miami last month, Martelly said that while Haiti had been a longtime member of CAIRCOM, the country had not “been able enjoy the advantages of CARICOM.”
“We don’t blame [CARICOM] for everything — some of the responsibilities are ours,” he said at the time. “We’re going to work on making sure we can benefit, and also going to refocus [CARICOM] on the Haiti matter.”
In his address to the Heads of Government meeting in Castries last summer, Martelly also said he would push for French to have a place on the CARICOM agenda, including acceptance as one of the official languages of the regional body.
More than 55 percent of CARICOM’s population speaks French or Creole.
He also said that Haiti would be seeking to host the CARIFESTA festival in 2015.
It’s likely that the issue of free movement of Haitian nationals within CARICOM will also be placed at the forefront of Haiti’s agenda.
In his statement Tuesday, Haiti’s President said the achievements of CARICOM over the last four decades testified that “integration is not only a bulwark against challenges, but also a means by which we can achieve more great development in this dynamic and formidable global environment.”
“It is in the unification of our potential that we will be able to better meet the adversities that threaten to overwhelm us,” said Martelly, who was in Gonaives to mark Haiti’s 209th anniversary of independence Tuesday.
“I am aware that Haiti must now accelerate its insertion [in CARICOM],” he said.
Martelly said he welcomed his colleagues to the upcoming 24th Intersessional Meeing of the Conference of Heads of State and Government in Haiti in February.
Haiti has the Chairmanship until June 30, when Trinidad will assume the post.