Robert Hart, Parliamentary Reporter
PRIME MINISTER P.J. Patterson will shortly put forward the Government’s plan to assist the tragedy-struck isle of Hispaniola which is shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic, in weathering a recent onslaught of flood rains that has left more than 1,000 people dead and tens of thousands homeless.
Senator Delano Franklyn, State Minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, announced yesterday that Mr. Patterson had instructed his office to meet with the ‘relevant agencies’ to discuss the most suitable approach to the crisis in the two countries.
“The proposals being put forward consist of recommendations to deal with immediate needs and also recommendations to deal with mid-term and long-term assistance. I am pretty sure that, quite soon, information will be given as to the recommendation which will be followed up on by the Prime Minister,” Senator Franklyn said.
He was responding to Opposition Senator Bruce Golding’s request, on the adjournment of yesterday’s sitting of the Senate, that the Government ends its noticeable silence on the matter which has factored into the news over the past two weeks.
“The Prime Minister felt that the extent of the damage and the number of people who have been killed as a result required much more than just an expression of regret,” Senator Franklyn said. He was explaining why “the ordinary letter of condolence and expression of sadness” had not been issued.
Earlier Senator Golding, the Opposition spokesman on Foreign Affairs, had expressed disappointment at the lack of a Govern-ment response to the crisis. However, he hinted that the circumstances surrounding the recent ouster of Jean-Bertrand Aristide from the Haitian presidency may have had a part to play.
“I know that we have a diplomatic conundrum right now. There is an interim administration which we have up to now been disinclined to recognise,” Senator Golding said.
But, he added: “This kind of disaster, this kind of humanitarian crisis, is something that transcends any kind of diplomatic difficulty that we have.”
Though noting that Jamaica is without ample resources, Mr. Golding stressed that the crisis still required a response.
He said: “I believe that a contingent of men and women from our defence force, with some technical and administrative personnel from our Office of Disaster Preparedness could be assembled and could be detached to Haiti to assist them in coming to grips with this tragedy.”