Concerns in Haiti as date for constitutional referendum draws near

Haiti constitution
FILE - In this Oct. 8, 2019 file photo, entrepreneur and youth leader Pascéus Juvensky St. Fleur, 26, holds up his copy of the Haitian constitution during an interview in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Haiti has unveiled multiple proposed changes to overhaul the country’s Constitution that officials plan to present to voters starting in Feb. 2021 for an upcoming referendum that looms amid growing unrest. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)

The Independent Consultative Committee (CCI) is expressing concern at “the increase in speeches inciting violence, as well as the acts of certain individuals against the constitutional referendum” scheduled for June 27 in Haiti.

The Committee said that it had observed that groups were inviting the population to set fire to electoral offices as well as urging armed gangs to take to the streets.

“This kind of statement, supported by public figures have repercussions in reality, leading to regrettable episodes like those recorded on June 1 in Jacmel,” the CCI said in a statement, also expresses its concerns about “the increase in hate messages on the social networks”.

It said that these messages are also directed at the lives of CCI members.

“No political disagreement justifies violence, let alone armed or physical violence,” the CCI said, adding that it was inviting all citizens, whether they are in agreement or in disagreement with the process of constitutional reform, to exercise their freedom of expression and their right vote.

“Plurality is one of the bases of democracy, which is why the Committee hopes that any discussion around the Constitutional text can be expressed in the field of ideas, by keeping an open and critical mind, so as to promote a respectful debate that meets the needs of the country.”

The CCI said that it was also taking the opportunity to reiterate its commitment to the important task of developing “a sufficiently solid and representative constitutional text, so that all Haitians can vote at the ballot box, faced with the choice of whether or not to endow the country with” a new mother law”.

Last week, President of the Senate, Joseph Lambert, has said that the referendum will not be held in his South East Department.

“I call on the people to rebellion, to revolt…to show temerity…justifying their appeal by explaining that when a Government takes a fundamentally illegal act and violates the Constitution, it is necessary to enter into rebellion and fight against him and stop him in his project,” Lambert said.

A member of the “Pitit Dessalin” Party has threatened to set fire to all the electoral material, while sparing the buildings which house these offices, in particular schools

The Secretary of State for Communication, Frantz Exantus has described the statement by Lambert as “unwelcome” calling on the Government to take all necessary measures to ensure the security of the referendum throughout the country.

Justice and Public Security Minister, Rockefeller Vincent, has already warned that the authorities will not tolerate any attempt to disrupt the June 27 constitutional referendum.

“The Haitian National Police and the Government Commissioners are formally instructed in order to secure the process and to crack down with the utmost rigor against any offender and any troublemaker, whatever their political affiliation or social status,” Vincent said.

He said that June 27, “is an important date for democracy in Haiti, where the Haitian people will vote by referendum on the need or not to change the current Constitution.

“Last week,  the Bishops Conference of Haiti called on President Jovenel Moise to postpone the l referendum as the country continues to be plagued by social and political unrest.

“In these difficult times in our history as a people, we hear the cries of our brothers and sisters, cries provoked by such terrible evils as the multiplication of heavily armed gangs that make the law and impose their diktats; violence in all its forms; kidnappings; insecurity that prevents free movement on the national territory; criminality; impunity; political instability; the deterioration of state structures; the high cost of living; the Covid-19 pandemic,” the Bishops said.

The Organization of American States has agreed to send a five-member delegation to Haiti no later than mid-June to help broker an agreement allowing for the polls.

The OAS said that the mission will consist of the representatives of five member states, namely: Canada, Costa Rica, Ecuador, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the United States.

Washington has agreed to pick up most of the tab following the OAS Permanent Council’s unanimous offer in March to the Haitian government to help facilitate political dialogue.



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