Thursday, December 16, 2010


(Winnipeg Free Press) - CP - By Andy Blatchford

MONTREAL - Michaelle Jean is marking Haiti's tumultuous presidential election as the trailhead that will eventually lead the earthquake-battered country to reconstruction.

Canada's former governor general told The Canadian Press on Wednesday that Haitians must follow though on the electoral process, even though it has rained much confusion and violence on the Caribbean nation.

Haitians could then zoom in, Jean says, on their ultimate goal: the greater good of the country's impoverished citizenry.

"Politics are always a very, very slippery and sensitive ground in Haiti, but we need to stay focused," Jean, now a United Nations special envoy to Haiti, said in a telephone interview.

"It's not time for violence. Nature has caused a lot of devastation — does human furor have to do the rest?"

Instead, the Haitian-born Jean stressed the need to encourage the creation of a responsible and accountable government that can reinforce the country and unlock its potential.

Haiti is still staggered by January's powerful quake that killed more then 200,000 people and left more than a million Haitians homeless.

The nation is also facing a cholera epidemic that is spreading its way through the country, particularly in its many tent cities.

The recent political upheaval has only added to the toll.

Haiti was the scene of numerous — and often violent — protests last week after initial results of its contested presidential election failed to produce a winner.

Stick- and rock-wielding rioters spilled into the streets of Port-au-Prince shortly after results of the preliminary vote were released.

Thousands of demonstrators paralyzed much of the capital by barricading roads with everything from burning tires to overturned cars to slabs of concrete left over from the quake.

Violence also erupted in other parts of the country.

The credibility of the electoral process has been hit by waves of allegations of fraud and vote-rigging.

Jean called on political players to use the country's existing democratic and legal procedures as tools to handle their disputes.

"There were irregularities . . . and there's a legal process for it and the rule of law must be respected and considered," she said.

"We cannot go back, we can't rewind — we're in the process.

"We have to come out of that confusion, come out of that crisis and always focus on the main goal, which is the reconstruction of Haiti."

Haiti's post-election turmoil has proved frustrating for members of the international community.

Canada and the U.S., which have each provided millions of dollars to fund the Haitian elections, delivered blunt warnings to the country earlier this week.

Following a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton near Ottawa on Monday, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon described Haiti's situation as of "grave concern." He also called on Haitian political actors to demonstrate a firm commitment to democratic principles.

Jean highlighted how important it is for the eventual government to work with international players who have been pouring so much aid into Haiti.

Then, she said, the country can focus on building schools and houses and investing in its economy — steps she believes will eventually stop people from describing Haitians as merely resilient.

"Resilience is the last resort for the destitute," Jean said.

"Haitians are more than a resilient population — it's a population that's capable."

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