Haitians told ‘form voting bloc’
by Taneka Thompson
Guardian Senior Reporter
Haitian President Michel Martelly yesterday urged his countrymen to form a voting bloc in The Bahamas and align themselves with the political party that will best serve their interests.
“I told them to organize themselves and identify in the upcoming elections who is on their side. That way they can become a force. By being [unified] in the elections they might have people taking care of them. . .this is the democratic way,” Martelly told reporters yesterday.
He was reiterating statements he made in Haitian Creole as he spoke to thousands of Haitians and Haitian-Bahamians who crowded the Church of God on Joe Farrington Road on Tuesday night.
Police on the scene estimated the crowd at 6,000. Many of them converged outside the hall anxious to hear their president speak.
His meeting with the members of the Haitian community in The Bahamas kicked off his brief official visit to the country.
Many people of Haitian descent who were born in The Bahamas, and some Haitians who came to The Bahamas illegally many years ago have been granted citizenship over the years.
Martelly said he heard reports of Haitians being mistreated in The Bahamas, for example being arrested for illegal immigration although they had permits to work or reside in the country.
He also lamented the plight of ‘stateless’ people who have to wait until their 18th birthday to apply for Bahamian citizenship even though they were born in this country.
“So until they’re 18 they don’t belong to anywhere, and yet they were born here, meaning do I have to tell anyone if you send them back to Haiti they probably don’t know anybody or won’t recognize the place where they land?.
“This could be considered as a crime, but that’s not the issue to talk about crime here; the issue is to stand by them and find the right solution. Be responsible, be humans and see how to better assist these Haitians,” said Martelly at a press conference at the British Colonial Hilton hotel yesterday.
However, he said he did not urge Haitians living here to protest, but instead use this country’s democratic system to work in their favor.
“I could not ask my people to riot for their right, this is not what I want,” he said.
The president said his government is working to create job opportunities so his people do not have to leave the country to make better lives elsewhere.
At the meeting with Haitians Tuesday night, Martelly encouraged them to return home and help rebuild the poor nation. He said it would be hard to convince foreign investors to help develop the country if its own people are leaving in droves.
An official who works for the Haitian Embassy translated his comments into English for The Nassau Guardian.
“I’m asking for your support, everyone get together with me, unite with me. We are going to create jobs for Haiti so Haitians don’t have to leave Haiti to look for jobs elsewhere,” he said in Creole, eliciting cheers from the crowd.
“. . .Those that want to leave now I’m telling you go with me tomorrow.”
The purpose of Martelly’s visit was to rebrand Haiti as a nation ripe for investment and full of opportunities.
The president, who was elected last April, said Haiti is no longer looking for international aid but wants to forge new ties in trading.
The country needs foreign investors to help build homes, roads and other infrastructure for the struggling country, according to the president.
Yesterday, Martelly met with Governor General Sir Arthur Foulkes, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, leader of the Opposition Perry Christie, members of the Chamber of Commerce and the ministers of immigration, national security and tourism.
Feb 09, 2012