by Wadner Pierre
Port au Prince (IPS) – Almost three months since he was sworn in as the country’s president, Michel J. Martelly has already attempted to appoint two prime ministers to guide his government. Bernard Gousse, a minister of justice under the Gérard Latortue dictatorship (2004-2006), and businessman Daniel Rouzier were both rejected by Haitian lawmakers.
Rouzier was rejected by the lower chamber over technicalities. Gousse was rejected by a group of 16 legislators in the Senate because of his appalling human rights record. Under Gousse, the jails were filled with political prisoners – mostly people from poor neighborhoods where there was strong support for ousted former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
The country is now suffering because there is no prime minister to form a new government to apply the program of the new president. When he campaigned, Martelly promised to send all Haitian children to school for free. The Haitian people are waiting for him to deliver on his promise in September when schools reopen their doors.
Martelly needs to have a prime minister approved, a huge challenge without a majority in parliament, if he has any intention of fulfilling this promise. According to the Haitian Constitution, when the president does not have the majority in the parliament, he has to choose the prime minister by consulting the presidents of both chambers. Martelly has already missed two occasions to do so. Some people blame his chief of staff, Thierry Mayard Paul, for his failure, while others say Martelly’s advisers are at fault.
Lawmakers have often reminded the increasingly frustrated president that he was elected last March with only 700,000 votes out of the 4.5 million people who were eligible to vote.
Three weeks ago, a group close to Martelly headed by Georges Sassine and Jackson Desir threatened to launch an operation named “Operasyon Granmoun Pa Jwe” – “Operation Adult Don’t Play” – to force the parliament’s hand. They claim that they want a prime minister that can put the nation together. “But we need a prime minister who can reconcile the nation,” said Sassine. “We will not stop until the ratification of a new prime minister.”
This move resembles the one launched against Aristide’s second government – 2000-2004 – which the Haitian elite named “Caravane Espoir,” or “Hope Caravan.” This led to the 2004 coup. Some of Martelly’s supporters have asked him to dissolve parliament. The question is what is the real intention of “Operasyon Granmoun Pa Jwe”?
Among Martelly’s advisers is 29-year-old Nicolas Duvalier, the son of former dictator Jean Claude Duvalier, who returned to the country recently and faces criminal charges.
Legal threats have also been made against Aristide. They are rumored to be financed by a sum of 8 million euros that the French government has made available to Haiti’s Ministry of Justice. Gousse would have enthusiastically taken on that project. Martelly’s administration had taken away the government car given to President Aristide, but returned it to him after an outcry by Aristide supporters.
Sen. Moïse Jean Charles, one of the most outspoken pro-Aristide members of the group of 16 in the Senate, criticized the behavior of the president in attempting to impose his preferred prime minister. In 2004, Charles was the elected mayor of Commune Milot and was among those in Northern Haiti who opposed the coup.
People are asking where Martelly wants to take the country. They are increasingly wondering whether Martelly is a puppet of his chief of staff. “Thierry (Mayard Paul) is Martelly’s right hand and he influences the president’s decision-making a lot, but he could not be the country’s next prime minister. He will not make it through, I think,” said a man who does some work for some of Paul’s friends and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Meanwhile, the division amongst Martelly’s team has made things more difficult for him. On Saturday, Aug. 6, Nancy Rock said on her radio show, with Gousse as a guest, that someone in Martelly’s team has undermined the president’s choice. “This person worked against Rouzier and Gousse as well,” she added. Gousse and Rock admitted that there is division amongst Martelly’s peers, but they argued that this division is all about economic interests, not a problem of color or poor and rich as many people might have believed.
Rock advised Martelly to take the necessary steps to get rid of this person. “President Martelly needs to get rid of this guy,” she said. “I am not going to cite any names, but people know who this person is,” she added. But Martelly seems unable to get his staff together to choose the next prime minister.
According to the senator of the Southeast, Edwin Zenny, “People are trumpeting the names of two presidential advisers, Daniel Supplice and Wilson Laleau.” Agence Haitienne de Presse, or AHP, reported on Aug. 17 that the name of Martelly’s chief of staff was on the table.
The group of 16 supposedly met last Friday to plan a new strategy in the event that Martelly unilaterally designates another controversial figure for the job.
Popular Haitian photojournalist Wadner Pierre is senior staff photographer for the Maroon and Wolf magazines at Loyola University New Orleans, where he is currently studying, and publishes with Inter Press Service, where this story first appeared. Visit his website, haitianalysis.com, and his blogs, wadnerpierre.blogspot.com and dominionpaper.ca/weblogs/wadner_pierre. On The Journey of a Haitian Photojournalist, you are sure to find photos by Wadner that will print themselves indelibly on your heart and can be purchased and displayed for others to enjoy. Wadner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.