Haiti hails new president

HERB BOYD Special to the AmNews | 5/25/2011, 3:43 p.m.

Here in Haiti's capital there was a profusion of pink and white. Pink and white stripes adorned trees, telephone poles, street curbs, sides of buildings and brick embankments along the highway. Even some of the orphaned children at the Oasis Center wore pink plastic shoes.

Why the presence of so much pink and white-akin to putting lipstick on a pig-in this devastated nation? They are the favorite colors of Michel Joseph Martelly, the new president.

At the swearing-in ceremony and subsequent inauguration, President Martelly did not wear pink, but scattered throughout the grandstands temporarily erected in front of the collapsed National Palace for the ceremony, there were a number of men with pink ties and women in pink dresses, as well as a contingent of men wearing white suits.

The pink and white should not be confused with a meek and mild administration, Martelly seemed to imply during his strong inauguration speech. "To the judicial and police authorities, I renew my confidence. I tell you that there was enough kidnapping, violence against women, killing of natives and police officers, that there has been enough injustice for the population-we will restore the authority of the state, the rule of law," he declared. "The order and discipline will prevail throughout the entire national territory."

That promised discipline was answered by a throng of people outside the palace grounds, many of them cheering him with each powerful phrase. Here and there were posters colorfully pink and white with the image of the president at the center. Some held up pictures of a cow, perhaps to suggest his concern for the nation's struggling peasants. At the rear and above the crowd were banners, several of them written in Creole, such as, "Prezidan ou se sevite pep la-Pa Jam Bliye sa" ("President you promised to serve the people-don't forget!").

"My dear compatriots, by assigning me by your vote on March 20, the destiny of the Republic of Haiti, you made me the first servant," Martelly said, as if responding to the hoisted banners. "The march towards this victory has been long and painful. It has mobilized all our determination and the courage of the Haitian people. I want to tell you that without the appreciated support of the international community, once too often, the popular vote would have been confiscated-that the Haitian people be proud and that the friends of Haiti to be thanked."

Among the visiting dignitaries was Dominican President Leonel Fernandez, the first time that a president from the neighboring Dominican Republic had attended a swearing-in ceremony of a Haitian president during free elections. "The process of consolidation of democracy in Latin America is reflected in the autonomy of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and the capacity to make decisions together," he said.

Congratulations were also extended by Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada, who was not able to attend. "The people of Haiti have shown patience and resolve in expressing their will and demonstrating their commitment to democracy and the electoral process," he sent in a written statement. "This transformation marks an important step on the road to recovery...Canada shares deep and long-standing ties with Haiti, and more than 100,000 Canadians have roots in the Caribbean nation.