By Dady Chery
The La Hatte section of Ile a Vache, Haiti, is paralyzed by popular protests and roadblocks once again. The population calls for support from everywhere, especially the other parts of the island. The protests were occasioned by several recent actions.
Environmental destruction by the Dominican company Ingenieria Estrella S.A.
Construction crews ripped through several areas during the night before Wednesday, March 26, 2014, as part of their road-building project. The population is especially angered by the fact that the most beautiful mountaintop on the island, near the area of Madame Bernard, has been bisected by bulldozers, and moreover, this was done without any contact with the landowners. The Dominican-Republic based construction company Ingeniería Estrella S.A. is currently unable to continue to work.
A Martelly-appointed local interim governor, Fritz Cesar, together with his brother, Henri Cesar, and a group of militarized police from the Motorized Intervention Brigate (BIM), descended on the area the next day for a series of house-to-house searches. One of the affected people was Organization of Ile a Vache Farmers (Konbit Organizasyon Peyzan Ayiti, KOPI) member Kenold Alexis.
Speaking on Radyo VKM, Mr. Alexis described that he had gone to teach, and around noon he received some phone calls alerting him that his house was being searched. He returned home to find his front door destroyed, his house in a shamble, and 20,000 gourdes (about $450) missing. He had raised this sum from the recent sale of a cow to pay for his children’s education. According to witnesses, Fritz Cesar, together with six death-squad members wrecked the house. In response to questions about whether he had been accused of a crime, Mr. Alexis said: “I am a school teacher, with a 24-year career. I have never been in any trouble with the law.”
Mr. Alexis noted that “those who feel solidarity with Haiti must ask why Martelly [has dismissed all the country’s local executives and] is appointing alleged criminals as provisional executives of various areas of the country.” He pointed out that Mr. Fritz Cesar has a criminal record and is therefore unqualified to hold a government post.
The case described by Mr. Alexis is not the only instance of the appointment of an alleged criminal to the Haitian government. For example, Gaby Silencieux was named Deputy Commissioner for the Limbe District in the Northern Department by Martelly on July 5, 2012, despite a warrant being issued on May 21, 2010 for Silencieux’ alleged involvement in torching the Court and Tax Offices in Cap Haitien. Currently, there are no local institutions to which people can bring their appeals. Police Commissioners, Departmental Delegates, local Justices of the Peace, have all been replaced by provisional Martelly appointees in an attempt to centralize all of Haiti under one single corrupt government.
All local officials have been silent about Ile a Vache. Unimpressed by the attempts to sow panic and intimidation, Mr. Alexis said: “I will not leave Ile a Vache…. I am a member of KOPI, and I will remain a member of KOPI.”
Yet another visit from Tourism Minister Stephanie Balmir Villedrouin on Monday, March 24, 2014, amounted to nothing. A political party called SHRAD, which apparently works with the minister, offered training for jobs, such as carpentry work and electrical work, to the population rather than respond to their unanswered demands to:
- Recall the decree to declare the island a zone of tourism development and public utility,
- Release KOPI Vice President Jean Maltunes Lamy,
- Withdraw 115 militarized police from the island.
The minister’s visit had the effect of frustrating the population even more and mobilizing it to respond to Martelly-Lamothe by plans to take to the streets during the week of March 31, 2014 and block all work until Jean Matulnes Lamy is free.
In a March 27, 2014 interview with Jean Claudy Aristil on Radyo VKM, Jean Matulnes Lamy’s wife, Marie Nahesca Destil, said: “I am happy and proud that it is under these circumstances that my husband was imprisoned and arrested, because of his defense of a just cause.” Mrs. Lamy specified that her husband was not against the Ile a Vache project but rather “against the way the project was brought to the island.” She described how her husband was called in for questioning twice by the government: the first time, to be told that “a policeman should not participate in protests, and he should not go on the island.” He was reinstated in his job, but he was called in again for questioning after he participated in a Radio VKI program on Ile a Vache. When he appeared the second time for questioning, he was arrested and then sent to prison without a trial. Although the government has liberally defamed Mr. Lamy, he has never been charged with a crime. One of the unofficial accusations against him is that a misfiring of his gun was the reason for his arrest. According to Mrs. Lamy, however, her husband “was never questioned about a fired weapon.” Furthermore, there are no documents associated with Mr. Lamy’s arrest other than the two letters that called him in for questioning.
In her efforts to free her husband from Haiti’s National Penitentiary, where he has been incarcerated since February 25, 2014, Mrs. Lamy has appealed to the Tourism Minister for her husband’s release, and the minister has responded that the case falls, not under her domain, but that of the justice department. Mrs. Lamy has also appealed to Human Rights Minister, Mrs. Rosanne Auguste, who said that she is unaware of even a file on Jean Matulnes Lamy and “does not know why he is in prison.” Human-rights lawyers Andre Michel and Nancy Vigne have told Mrs. Lamy that the file on her husband is with the investigative office, but she also said that neither lawyer has specifically “seen her for arrangements” about the case.
When asked if there is anything Ile a Vache can do to help free Jean Matulnes Lamy, Mrs. Lamy responded that SHRAD has told her to wait and see what the government does. She added: “If by this coming weekend, Maltunes is not returned, the population should stand up again. The support of the population is the most important thing.”
Mrs. Lamy’s message to the Haitian authorities and the Ile a Vache population is: “I ask one thing, and it is the unconditional release of my husband. I ask the Ile a Vache population to join me in this. If the population does not wear down the government, does not put on some heat, then nothing will happen. The population needs to give some heat to the government to get a decision…. I want to tell the Ile a Vache people to hang in there, don’t soften up, continue the mobilization.”
For the full Radyo VKM March 27, 2014 interviews, in Kreyol, click on the arrow below:
Jean Claudy Aristil talks with KOPI’s Kenold Alexis and Marie Nahesca Destil, wife of KOPI Vice President, Jean Matulnes Lami, who has been imprisoned without charge or trial since February 25, 2014.
Sources: Haiti Chery | Radyo VKM (broadcast and photograph 2)