Saturday 7 December, 2019

Lambert Brown questions Government over honour for Dom Rep President

Senator Lambert Brown

Senator Lambert Brown

Opposition Senator, Lambert Brown, has questioned whether the Jamaican Government is satisfied that the situation in the Dominican Republic, where persons of Haitian descent who were born in that country are reportedly being deprived of citizenship and being subjected to deportation, has improved.

Senator Brown raised the question on Friday in the Upper House of Parliament after Leader of Government Business, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, had made a statement condemning what is being described as modern-day slavery taking place in parts of North Africa, including Libya. Senator Johnson Smith said the practice which was condemned by the United Nations this week, was despicable.

Johnson Smith’s statement came ahead of International Day against Slavery, which will be observed on Saturday, December 2.  In the statement, she said the poor treatment of Jamaican children, including those who are exposed to human trafficking, prostitution and generally poor treatment, is equally unacceptable.

When he rose to speak, Senator Brown supported Johnson Smith in condemning modern-day slavery in all its forms. But he went on to question whether she was satisfied that a similar situation of human rights breaches does not exist inside the Dominican Republic, where Haitians who were born there are reportedly being rounded up and deported.

Said Brown: “I want to know whether or not the minister (Johnson Smith) is of the view that the type of indignity (being) meted out, and which continues (against) the Haitians who were born in the Dominican Republic, who have been deprived of citizenship of that country, whether that indignity has so passed to merit our Government’s granting of the country’s second highest honour to the president of the Dominican Republic.”

Brown continued: “If we are not so satisfied that the indignity has passed, then that honour is premature. Some persons could perceive that we are supportive of such behaviour, (as) our prime minister (Andrew Holness) also received from them their honour in the face of the dishonouring of our black brothers and sisters.”

President of the Dominican Republic, Danilo Medina Sanchez, arrived in Jamaica on Monday for a two-day state visit. That same day, both Holness and Sanchez were conferred with national honours of the respective sister countries during a state luncheon at King's House.

Governor General, Sir Patrick Allen, conferred the Order of Excellence on President Sanchez, while Prime Minister Holness was awarded the Order of Merit of Duarte, Sánchez and Mella in the rank of Grand Cross with Gold Breast Star by President Sanchez.

In his remarks, the governor general said President Sanchez was being recognised for his contribution to Caribbean development, beginning within his own country and extending to the partnerships that exist within the region.

Opposition Senator, Floyd Morris, had earlier asked whether Haitians in the Dominican Republic were now subjected to more humane treatment in that country. He too raised the question against the background of the visit of Sanchez. Morris said a clear message must be sent that the poor treatment of Haitians will not be tolerated.

For her part, Johnson Smith said: “We have not only maintained engagement with the government of the Dominican Republic on this issue, but we similarly do so with the government of Haiti. We feel confident that the matter is improving. It is a matter we continue to monitor.”

On Tuesday, representatives at the United Nations called for action to be taken in Libya after a video surfaced of African migrants being sold at a slave market.

France called an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the issue.

"The fact is that ruthless smugglers are preying on desperate migrants and refugees with no regard at all for human dignity," said Michele Sison, the US Deputy Ambassador to the UN.

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