ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Jul 7, CMC – Heads of government of the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping, have condemned the assassination of President Jovenel Moise of Haiti by armed gunmen who attacked his private residence above the hills of Port-au-Prince during the early hours of Wednesday.
His wife and First Lady, Martine Moise, has since been flown by air ambulance to a hospital in Miami for treatment after she was injured during the shooting.
In a statement following their “special emergency meeting,” the regional leaders said they were “shocked and saddened by the assassination of a member of the CARICOM family.
They said that they are also “concerned by the condition of his wife, “who was gravely wounded in the attack, and wish her a full and speedy recovery.
“Heads of Government strongly condemn this abhorrent and reprehensible act that comes at a time of deep turmoil and institutional weakness in the country. They called for the perpetrators to be apprehended and brought to justice, and for law and order to prevail.”
Interim Haitian Prime Minister, Claude Joseph, has declared a state of siege in the country following the assassination of 53-year-old President and Bocchit Edmond, the Haitian ambassador to the United States, said the attack on the private residence of the President was carried out by “well-trained professional commandos” and “foreign mercenaries”
The state of siege is a legal instrument used by the government in the event of imminent danger such as armed insurrection or foreign invasion towards the nation. It generally includes several provisions with the army replacing the police regarding public security and certain freedoms such as movement of people, demonstration are severely restricted.
It also allows for a curfew to be imposed.
In a radio and television broadcast, Joseph told Haitians that the killers appeared to have been foreigners.
“The first pieces of information we have is that it is a group of English and Spanish speaking individuals with large calibre weapons who killed the President of the Republic.
“As head of Government still in office, this morning I convened a Special Superior Council of the National Police (CSPN) in the strict application of article 149 of the Constitution …where we decided to declare the state of siege over the whole country,” he said.
In their statement, CARICOM leaders said in accordance with the values, as expressed in its Charter of Civil Society, “the Caribbean Community does not settle its differences by violence which undermines democracy and the rule of law, but peacefully through dialogue and recourse to democratic institutions.
“In light of Haiti’s Membership of CARICOM and the family ties that bind the people of Haiti and CARICOM together, CARICOM expresses its willingness to play a lead role in facilitating a process of national dialogue and negotiation to help the Haitian people and their institutions to craft an indigenous solution to the crisis.”
The regional leaders have called on Haitians “to remain calm, and to overcome their differences and unite at this moment of national peril.”
They said that as a mark of respect, CARICOM member states and the Guyana-based CARICOM Secretariat “will fly their national flags and the CARICOM Standard at half-mast for three days beginning immediately, as well as on the day of the funeral”.
Vice-Chancellor of The University of The West Indies (UWI), Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, said that the assassination of President Moïse “is the latest dramatic reflection of the culture of murderous political violence that has typified the colonisation of the Caribbean, and whose legacy continues to speak to the devalued worth of black life especially in our hemisphere.
“For the people of Haiti and the wider Caribbean region who have politically united for mutual survival with dignity under the banner of CARICOM, this blunt and brutal execution of the democratically elected Head of State foregrounds the historic savagery long fought against in our region’s struggle to forge a humane and sophisticated post-colonial Caribbean civilisation.”
Sir Hilary said that political murder and social mayhem have long been the management tools used to maintain the misery and marginalisation of the Caribbean as it marches inexorably to the rendezvous of democracy as a freedom victory.
“No country in the modern world has paid as great a human and material price as Haiti in seeking to convert its rubble of bloody imperial domination into a viable democratic nation state. In this regard, the murder of Moïse is the latest in a legacy that includes political leaders such as Walter Rodney and Maurice Bishop.
“His political execution reflects but an element in the internal political gridlock many Caribbean societies face in their effort to detach from the colonial scaffold with its endemic thirst for violence, and advance to a peaceful domestic democratic idealism. The University of the West Indies is dedicated to this process and transition and mourns the lost life of President Moïse,” he added.
Haiti is facing a constitutional crisis with many Haitians saying they had stopped recognizing Moïse because they believe his term expired on February 7 under the current constitution.
Late last month, the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) announced plans to stage the constitutional referendum as well as the legislative elections for the Senate and Deputy on Sunday September 26.
Haiti had earlier announced the postponement of the constitutional referendum that was originally scheduled for June 27.
The referendum has been criticised by the opposition parties that claimed it had been unilaterally proposed by Moïse, who had indicated that the referendum was necessary as the government moves to reform the constitution.
Earlier this week. Moise had appointed his seventh prime minister since coming to office in 2017.
“I have appointed citizen Ariel Henry to the post of Prime Minister. He will have to form a government of openness including the vital forces of the nation, solve the glaring problem of insecurity and support the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) for the realization of the general elections and the referendum,” President Moïse said.
The Organization of American States (OAS) denounced “in the strongest terms” Moise’s assassination, saying “this attack is an affront to the entire community of democratic nations represented in the Organization of American States.
“We most vehemently deplore this attempt to undermine the institutional stability of the country. We reject this objectionable act.
“Disagreement and dissent are part of a strong and vigorous system of government. Political assassinations have no place in a democracy. We call for an end to a form of politics that threatens to derail democratic advances and the future of the country,” the OAS said, adding “our deepest condolences and our solidarity with the Haitian people at this difficult time”.
Last month, the top UN official in Haiti, Helen La Lime, briefing the Security Council on the worsening socioeconomic conditions in Haiti, warned of rising gang violence, resurgence of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and the “ever-growing polarization of Haitian politics”.
She said despite several Haitian-led mediation efforts, “the deep-rooted political crisis which has gripped the country for the better part of the last four years, shows no sign of abating”, while the rhetoric used by some political leaders was growing increasingly acrimonious.
Speaking ahead of its meeting on Wednesday, UN Security Council President Ambassador Nicolas de Rivière of France said members were saddened by the death of the Haitian leader.
“The members of the Council express their deep shock at the assassination of President Moïse, which occurred earlier today in Port-au-Prince, and their concern at the fate of the First Lady, Martine Moïse,” he added. – CMC