Nancy Roc is recipient of
- The Jean Dominique Prize for Freedom of the Press by
- The Best Journalist of the Year Award from the
Rotary Club of Port-au-Prince (1999)
- Honor and Merit Award from the Haitian Press Center (2002)
- Radio Award of the Year for her defense of press freedom from Freelance international Press,
Points made by Nancy Roc in this important article
Will the summer be a long, hot one? This is the question despite the government?s fundraising success in Washington. In some respects the situation has been returning to normal. Electricity has been restored in the capital, politics has calmed down and the arrest of gangs and partisans of the former regime has reassured the population. Nevertheless, criminal acts continue. Haiti?s emergence will still be difficult. In whose interest is it to destabilize the transitional government? Will Caricom finally recognize it? And what should that government be doing to really promote the well-being of Haiti?
On June 22 and 23 thirty stores and warehouses were set on fire downtown. These had already suffered from the arson of the chimeres preceding Aristide?s departure. This was another blow to the merchants. The police chief confirmed it as a criminal act. Despite the reward offered no suspects were found. This arson followed the murder of the Air France representative.
On June 28 the government arrested former prime minister Yvon Neptune on suspicion of involvement in the St. Marc massacre. On June 25, Prime Minister Latortue implicitly accued Aristide?s partisans of encouraging a wave of violence. ?They have never accepted the rule of law, the regular working of institutions . . . they are trying to create an environment for destabilizing the country.? Neptune had made a declaration on Haitian radio calling on the Lavalas partisans to mobilize for the return of Aristide from South Africa. The arrest of Neptune was done at the last minute because the government had information that he was planning to leave the country on June 26 under foreign protection. Since the arrest, the criticism by the American ambassador of the arrest has upset political sectors and the population. The American ambassador noted the ?courageous role? the former prime minister had played in assuring the peaceful and constitutional succession after Aristide?s resignation. He urged the Haitian authorities to guarantee his security and prove his responsibility for the St. Marc massacre. Has the ambassador forgetten the crucial role played by the Aristide partisans? The criminal and political attack on July 15 against the police should warn us of the danger of a neo-Lavalas revival.
The merchants downtown accused thugs who operated with complete impunity. While political observers blamed Lavalas, we mustn?t forget that the Lavalas corruption encompassed many elements of society, especially those in the drug trade. A major anti-drug operation is underway in Haiti. Many traffickers have been extradited to Miami. Merchants, bankers, former military commanders, and police are equally under scrutiny. DEA agents have been in Cap-Haitien.
Members of the government remain frustrated by the chaotic situation which reigns in many parts of the country, especially the provinces, where many customs officers have ties with smugglers and are defrauding the government of revenue. These corruptionists won?t give up their source of lucre easily. So these corrupt elements also wouldn?t mind financing the destabilization of the government as it tries to bring them under control. The government is trying to install customs officials with the help of the U.N. forces.
The demobilized military is also a thorny question. Some former armymen don?t hesitate to attack in the media any journalists who question their role. The government appears to share these concerns and has warned the former armymen about carrying illegal arms. It has warned against abuses by former armymen in the provinces. It said former armymen may be hired as policemen after proper vetting. It said arms must be turned in by September 15. In this warning to the former armymen, the government equally addressed itself to the Aristiders who were illegally maintaining arms. In response, a former army spokesman announced a campaign against disarmament. While simultaneously the English-speaking Caribbean press campaigned for their disarmament. The U.S. ambassador indicated that the disarmament would take place in the next two months with a reinforced U.N. force. A visiting Treasury official said disarmament was important for the Bush administration?s hopes to generate jobs in Haiti. Caricom, meanwhile, was divided between those countries who benefited from Aristide?s largesse and those who want normal relations with Haiti, whether in good faith or under American pressure.
The government has won the approval of the International Monetary Fund for rationalizing the revenue and expenses. The government also achieved a political victory with the July 10 agreement on setting up a follow-up committee pursuant to the April 4 political accord on the transition. The committee will be composed of members of the Council of Eminent Persons, the political parties, and the civil society. It marks a radical departure from the attitude earlier adopted by the government. It now recognizes that the transition cannot be accomplished without the participation of the various sectors. The agreement was signed after the one on disarmament and was hailed by the various sectors.
However, concretely, nothing has been done. The government faces urgent tasks, none of which can be safely neglected. The prime minister himself in his hundred-day assessment admitted that we are living in a Mafia state. While calling for an anti-corruption effort tangible actions remain to be seen. Although the government is not mafioso it lives in fear of the mafia. As one official admitted, the whole state is implicated.
We must say no. It is not the state but the same sectors who have been enriching themselves at the expense of the state in complete impunity. The government should do an accounting, track down the money stolen from the state under the Aristide regime and block the accounts and property of those implicated in this pillage. The government needs to keep working on the judiciary as well. It needs to prove its ability to prosecute the assassinations of Jean Dominique, Brignol Lindor, the St. Marc massacre, the attack on Pierre Marie Paquiot, the radio equipment at Les Boutilliers, etc. At the same time, with elections on the horizon, there?s an uneasiness about the pace of work of the electoral commission which has yet to receive money to work with. It must prepare the electoral process and the millions of identification cards for the Haitians who don?t have any. The government also has no choice but to attack the corruption and bring into state coffers the revenue that is being diverted into private hands. Customs duties are being filched in St. Marc, for example, and in Miragoane or Malpasse.
Faced with this difficult and dangerous situation the government seems to be waiting for the proper moment to act. We hope it will for the good of the nation. Maybe the successful donors? conference can be the occasion for it. There will be unrest unless they can both meet pressing needs and restart long-term development. With this cause it can act against the former miliarty who have announced a campaign against disarmament and who demand their due for their having eliminated Aristide from the scene. Certain of these former armymen are up to their ears in local corruption. Once some order is restored it will be easier for the government to pay or pension off the former armymen. The government must also decide how to handle them with dignity. The government has yet to decide how to do this and this is a further factor that may destabilize. The government must be firm and expeditious.
Finally the government must attack private-sector corruption to make it known that the times have changed for good. The telephone and electric companies await action and have not been forgotten. The list of those who used their influence to enrich themselves is known. The judicial process should begin. Cannot the government send inspectors to take control of the customs? The question remains.
The government has been reproached for its slowness. The government is in a difficult place but has American support for efforts to clean up the drug sector and institute good governance. Apart from being a cancer on the Haitian nation, this corruption affects U.S. domestic security as the United States decides to put an end to the practices of a ?banana republic.? The donors? meeting was crucial, it will crown these efforts or else prove international hypocrisy. We remain apprehensive but hopeful that the international community will equally recognize its own fault and move to open a better tomorrow for Haiti.