Two weeks after Jamaica offered to contribute troops to a regional task force to help crisis-hit Haiti restore public order, the Canadian government has pitched in by sending a military plane with high tech electronic equipment to disrupt the activities of violent gangs in the country, officials said.
The Canadian government announced the move at the weekend, saying it had secured permission to do so from the remnants of Haiti’s collapsed government system as the city and other parts of the country remain paralyzed by gangland and other forms of violence.
A government statement said the CP-140 aircraft, which is already in use, will conduct runs “to disrupt the activities of gangs. For the security of the operation we will not make any further comment on this mission, which is done in collaboration and with the agreement of the government of Haiti,” the Canadian mission said.
Canada’s intervention at this level comes amid a spate of kidnappings in the city and various parts of the island. Local newspapers at the weekend reported that former security minister Pierre Buteau is among those who have been abducted by gangs in recent weeks. Police have reported on the slayings of more than 70 officers in recent weeks as gangs fight for control of various parts of the country.
Caribbean community leaders, who have witnessed decades of conflict and political troubles in Haiti, are to meet for their mid-year summit in the Bahamas next week.
The meeting will take place in the midst of efforts by the administration of Prime Minister Phillip Davis to cope with a Haitian refugee crisis, control and restrict the growth of Haitian shanty communities on tourism islands, and deal with court challenges to local laws preventing anyone born in the Bahamas to a foreign parent from obtaining citizenship. The citizenship issue is before the British Privy Council of law lords, the highest court for the Bahamas. A decision is expected shortly. Arguments were heard in London last month.
Bahamian officials say they will raise the Haiti crisis issue and hope for extensive discussion as the country “has a Haiti problem.” Official estimates place the number of Haitians in the country at about 30% of the population of just over 350,000 people.
Last week, Attorney General Ryan Pinder asked the local courts for permission to demolish a Haitian shack city that is emerging on Abaco Island, popular with tourists year round.
“The office of the attorney general filed a summons seeking permission to demolish the expansion of a shanty town in Abaco and at two locations in New Providence. I am coordinating a cross-government response with the senior leadership of the defense force, the ministry of Immigration, the police force, the ministry of works, and the attorney general’s office. In the coming days, I will outline further steps on immigration, focusing on enforcement, protection of our borders and international cooperation,” Davis said.
Haiti is indeed expected to be a main agenda item for leaders coming in the wake of the action taken by Canada and the offer from Jamaica, which has so far not received much support from other members of the 15-nation Caricom bloc.
“Jamaica would be willing to participate in a multinational security assistance deployment to Haiti under the appropriate jurisdictional parameters to support a return to a reasonable level of stability and peace,” Prime Minister Andrew Holness told parliament last month, adding that security forces have already been informed to be ready if a final decision is made.