Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

After an Unconstitutional Ratification: Parliamentarians Prepare to Vote on Garry Conille’s Policy Statement (Haiti Liberte)

By: Thomas Peralte, Haiti Liberte

Garry Conille, the protege of the “international community” or at least of Bill Clinton, became Haiti’s Prime Minister on Oct. 4 after 17 of Haiti’s 30 senators voted for his ratification, three against, and nine abstentions.

The ratification was flagrantly illegal because Conille patently did not meet the citizenship requirements of Article 52 and the residency requirements of Article 157 of the 1987 Haitian Constitution .

Article 159 of that Constitution states that the “Prime Minister enforces the law.” But Garry Conille has no national ID card, did not vote in Haitian elections, and does not pay his taxes in Haiti, all of which, by law, are pre-requisites for his becoming Prime Minister. How can he now be expected to “enforce the law” when he doesn’t apply it to himself?

“We have nothing against Mr. Conille,” said Senator Jean Hector Anacacis, one of the nine senators who abstained, “but we must respect the Constitution.”

The 17 senators who voted in favor of Garry Conille’s confirmation have not been applauded by the Haitian people, but they have been warmly congratulated by the “international community.”

“We salute the ratification by the Haitian parliament of Dr. Garry Conille as Prime Minister,” reads a declaration by the U.S. Embassy in Haiti the day after the vote. “The U.S. government stands ready to partner together with the Prime Minister and his cabinet to meet the urgent challenges of reconstruction. We hope that, since more than four months have now passed without a government ratified by the parliament, President Martelly and Prime Minister Conille will move swiftly to make up for lost time in doing the important work of governing. The United States is ready to work together with our partners in furtherance of this goal.”

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Jose Miguel Insulza, applauded the vote with these words: “I congratulate Prime Minister Conille on his confirmation and wish him all the success in his new job leading his country’s government. The consolidation of his team will be a fundamental step, because the responsibility is great and the tasks to be undertaken are urgent. At the OAS we are ready, under his guidance, to keep working towards the country’s reconstruction and development.”

Now Conille must present the broad outlines of what his government’s program will be. The Constitution’s Article 158 specifies: “With the approval of the President, the Prime Minister shall choose the members of his Cabinet of Ministers and shall go before Parliament to obtain a vote of confidence on his declaration of general policy. The vote shall be taken in open ballot, and an absolute majority of both Houses is required. In the event of a vote of no confidence by one of the two Houses, the procedure shall be repeated.”

Some senators question whether Conille will be forced to resign following this policy statement. “If he does not win over the parliamentarians, they will censure him, and a Prime Minister who receives a vote of censure is forced to resign,” said one of the Artibonite department’s abstaining senators, Anick François Joseph. “Anything is possible. There are senators who voted ‘yes’ simply because they want to provide the nation with a government, but I say that I do not see a stable and functional government taking shape, at least not with Mr. Conille.”

Garry Conille “has not paid for his identity card, he did not vote, he has not paid taxes and he is someone who has benefitted from circumstances to become prime minister, without a thought of meeting the constitutional requirements,” said Senator Anacacis. “The Senate has approved a marriage in which divorce is a foregone conclusion.”

For Acclush Louis-Jeunes, the deputy representing Dame-Marie (Grand Anse) for the Alternative alliance, Conille’s policy statement must address three key questions: the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), the UN Stabilization Mission for Haiti (MINUSTAH) and the resurrection of the Haitian Army. “Everyone knows that I was in the demonstration against the IHRC, and now the Prime Minister, even if it was the international community which chose him, will have to say whether the IHRC should be repatriated to Haitians or whether he will leave it in the hands of Bill Clinton. The second question is about MINUSTAH’s departure. The Prime Minister must tell us when MINUSTAH will leave, he must be clear on this, because it will determine a lot of the general policy. Thirdly, we must take up the issue of the Army. Today it is extremely important, if the army is going to be brought back, that there is a debate about it among all sectors of our society.”

Meanwhile, the representative for Mirebalais / Boucan-Carre, Deputy Abel Descolines, said that the Group of 58, the largest voting block in the Chamber of Deputies, would be watching for how posts were apportioned. “As for the vote of the Group of 58 with respect to the general policy statement, nothing is guaranteed for the Prime Minister,” he said. “First and foremost, we want answers to questions on a range of issues, particularly on how the government will be formed. Who will be the ministers? Which sectors will be integrated into this government?”

For peasant organizations and other social movements, Conille’s ratification is an alarming development. “Haiti is in the process of recolonization,” said Philefrant Saintnare, a leader of the Papaye Peasant Movement (MPP). “Garry Conille will not defend the interests of Haiti. He will be under the control of the ‘international community’ and will defend the interests of Bill Clinton. With Garry Conille as Prime Minister, the imperialist forces will realize their dream which is none other than to grab land from farmers to establish free trade zones and to produce agro-fuel.”

Representatives from various other popular sectors have made similar warnings. Garry Conille has found support only from certain representatives of the “international community,” parliamentarians, and President Michel Joseph Martelly.

On Oct. 6, President Martelly held a press conference with Garry Conille at the National Palace where he said that he and Conille will form “a winning duo.” Conille said he anticipates “an open and honest collaboration” with Martelly.

The two said they would form an “inclusive” government to address four priorities: education, employment, the environment, and the rule of law.

“The reconstruction will begin and everyone has a role to play in making it effective,” said Martelly.

The president was also somewhat defensive about the popular perception that Washington was behind Conille’s nomination. “I chose Dr. Conille,” Martelly insisted. “I am the president of the country and in my capacity as head of state, I chose my Prime Minister.”

Prior to his choice, Martelly had said he would choose between two people: Wilson Laleau, a member of his staff since the election, and Garry Conille, whom he didn’t know at the time. The ultimate irony is that Conille did not even vote in the so-called elections which brought Martelly to power.

Following the Senate’s vote, Garry Conille was named Prime Minister in an Oct. 7 presidential decree. He was supposed to present his general policy statement to the Parliament on Oct. 11, but at the last minute, for unknown reasons, the presentation was indefinitely postponed.

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