Two Letters to CBC Radio: On UN role in Haiti, and interview with Governor General Michaëlle Jean

Vancouver BC
Sunday, February 13, 2011

Hello CBC Sunday Edition,

In his opening essay on today’s program, “The United Nations of Nowhere” (http://www.cbc.ca/thesundayedition/), your host, Michael Enright, bemoaned the failure of the United Nations to provide any meaningful support to the people of Egypt in their courageous battle to end the tyranny under which they have lived for 30 years. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, said Mr. Enright, has offered nothing more than platitudes, token phrases.

Mr. Enright quoted Madame Justice Rosalie Abella of the Supreme Court of Canada extensively in lamenting the failure of the United Nations to act decisively in defense of human rights in today’s world.

The UN’s performance in Egypt would be less surprising to Mr. Enright were he to look closer to home, in Haiti. There, the UN has not only failed to protect the Haitian people, it is an agent of their continued suffering. Its military presence in the country is a parasitic and wasteful endeavour. Its agencies have failed to deliver aid and reconstruction in the quantities and speed of action required.

Worse, the UN is an active player in the disgraceful electoral exercise of November 28, 2010 that was imposed, and financed to the tune of $30 million, from abroad. Only 22 per cent of Haitians could bring themselves to vote in an election where the only candidates allowed to run were those beholden to local and foreign capitalist interests.

A second round of this exercise–what Attorney Bill Quigley, Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights in the U.S., aptly termed, recently, a “puppet show”–will now proceed in March, due entirely to the pressure, cajoling and threats of the big powers in Haiti, including MINUSTAH.

This sad performance by the big powers in Haiti is a continuation of a sad history. In February, 2004, Haiti’s elected government was overthrown by force and violence. The countries that sent soldiers to assist in that overthrow–the United States, Canada and France—received the blessing of the UN Security Council.

Three months later, the Security Council established the permanent police and military occupation force known as MINUSTAH.

In an astonishing interview in late December, 2010, the representative to Haiti of the Organization of American States decried the wasteful expenditure of resources represented by MINUSTAH. “Haiti is not an international threat,” said Ricardo Seitenfus, a Brazilian. “There is no civil war.”

“If there is proof of the failure of international aid,” he said, “it is Haiti.” For his words, the diplomat was immediately fired.

All of this should be of grave concern to Canadians. Our government helped finance the November 28 “puppet show” and has urged that the show go on. When the election debacle was debated in the House of Commons on December 13, not a single member from any party questioned the legality or morality of proceeding to a second round vote. This is in sharp contrast to declarations of the Congressional Black Caucus and other members of the U.S. Congress who have repeatedly called for the election to be scrapped and begun anew under fair and democratic procedures.

Surely the lesson of Egypt is that only an informed and mobilized citizenry can guarantee the protection and advancement of human and social rights. And that the role of media is not to bow before government authority but to question and probe its functioning and motivation. The Sunday Edition should probe the lessons of Haiti. In so doing, you would perform a needed service.

Sincerely,
Roger Annis
Canada Haiti Action Network
www.canadahaitiaction.ca


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Vancouver BC
Sunday, February 13, 2011

Hello CBC Q,

I listened with much anticipation to your 20-minute interview on February 10 with former Governor General Michaëlle Jean. Imagine my surprise when your host, Jian Ghomeshi, failed to ask a single question about her views on Haiti.

Madame Jean is UNESCO’s Special Representative to Haiti. She traveled there on the anniversary of the earthquake and has voiced strong opinions about the international relief effort. The country is in shambles. How could there have been no questions directed to her on Haiti? Twice she referred to her concerns and duties there; this was, to my ears, an obvious invitation to your host for some questions on the subject.

I recall the stirring words that Jian offered to Haiti in his opening essay of January 13, 2010. He said the world had a duty to stand by Haiti in the time ahead. I believe your program has failed to live up to those words. Your stories on Haiti have been extremely rare over the past year. The members of your media panel have overlooked it, as well. If I am not mistaken, they never once selected “Haiti” as the most under-reported story on their regular feature on this theme.

Finally Jian’s repeated addressing of Madame Jean as “Michaëlle” sounded inappropriate to me. Memo to Q: Next time, it’s “Your Excellency” or “Madame Jean.”

Sincerely,
Roger Annis
Canada Haiti Action Network
www.canadahaitiaction.ca