Haiti and the issue of dual nationality
By Jean H Charles
For the last two months the issue of dual nationality has been on the front and the back pages in the media, the legislature and in the public mind in Haiti. Indeed, Senator Moise Jean Charles of the north of Haiti is accusing President Michel Martelly of holding dual nationality not only from the United States but also from Italy.
A special commission of the Senate has been instituted to investigate the issue. All the ministers and the state secretaries have been invited to bring their travel documents to determine whether they are holding another passport in addition of the Haitian one.
President Martelly has steadfastly refused to offer for examination his documents stating his passport will remain where it belongs, in his pocket.
The issue is of importance. Can the legislature compel a sitting president, whose document has been examined by the electoral council at the time of the election, to produce his travel documents to determine whether he is a true citizen of Haiti?
I am of the opinion that the legislature does not have such authority. I have combed the entire Haitian constitution; I could not find any article that gives the authority to the legislature to adjudicate whether a Haitian citizen is a true and legal Haitian citizen. It is the province of the court to determine whether a citizen is a born or legalized citizen of another country not the realm of the legislature.
In addition, the legal documents: passports, certificate of birth, decree of divorce, certificate of death and certificate of marriage delivered by a sovereign state enjoy the presumption of legality at home and the full faith and credit of the sister states.
The Haitian legislature has brought ridicule to itself when it has stopped all its other initiatives including the examination of the present budget as well as the issue of ratifying the new prime minister, focusing instead on the issue of the nationality of the current president.
The electoral council in stating that Michel Martelly is a true citizen of Haiti, eligible to run as president of the country, has the imprimatur of the sovereign state of Haiti. President Martelly enjoys the stamp of the concept of legal presumption of authenticity.
Akin to the legal principle that protects a child born in wedlock from a different father as a legitimate child to maintain the stability of the family, the state of Haiti has an interest in protecting the stability of the country by not revisiting decisions of nationality entered into by its state authority, the Electoral Council.
At the invitation of the commission Religions for Peace, made up of interdenominational religious authorities, Catholic, Episcopal, Voodoo and Protestant, President Martelly has yielded to the pressure and offered finally to the press and to the general public all his passports (eight of them) proving that he is indeed a citizen of Haiti who did not renounce his nationality of origin.
Haiti is confronting at this point the struggle between the new and the ancient regime. Should the ancient regime that kept the country poor, divided and in shackles remain at the seat of power, putting the brakes at will on the initiatives introduced by the new president?
Haiti, since it independence in 1804, has been afflicted with the curse of continuous setbacks. The first one occurred with the assassination of its founding father some two years after its liberation from the yoke of slavery. Jean Jacques Dessalines was killed in an ambuscade on October 17, 1806, plunging the young republic into turmoil that caused its division in two parts, the republic of Petion in the west and the kingdom of Henry Christophe in the north.
One hundred years later, the country did not solidify its nation building experience; it was occupied by the United States on July 1, 1915, which remained in the country until 1934, with no apparent seeding of democracy building.
A quarter of century later, on September 22, 1957, Francois Duvalier took control of power in the country, with the slogan of change for the masses. Their fate after some thirty years of the dictatorial regime took a turn for the worse.
The expulsion of the Duvaliers on February 7, 1986, and the adoption of a new constitution on March 29, 1987, were supposed to bring the country to calmer waters. However, the transitional governments as well as the democratic elected one of Jean Bertrand Aristide were as nefarious to the country as the dictatorial ones.
Rene Preval, Aristide’s nemesis, brought the nation to a low so deep in economic and social insecurity that the people of Haiti chose a neophyte in politics in the person of a former band leader, Joseph Michel Martelly, as their president.
Can the new president enjoy enough space to deliver on his promises of education, employment, environment and the rule of law? He has been confronted with roadblocks of different size and shape every week by the press, the legislature and the opposition made of the losing political parties. Yet the president seems to gaze into the support of the majority of the population and of the international community.
Joseph Michel Martelly is guiding the Haitian ship of state with confidence and gusto. One million additional children are receiving the bread of education; a new program of electricity for the rural areas is being implemented. His wife, Mrs Sophia Martelly, is shepherding a war against hunger. The population reflects the sentiment that the opposition is just demonstrating sour grapes against a government that finally is bringing results against all odds.
The issue of dual nationality was a smokescreen in a nation where four million of its population live in a foreign country, with the passing of time holding dual nationality. Haiti like the rest of the Caribbean is hostile to its Diaspora. In comparison, the European Union reaches its hand long and far to create new citizens out of the generation of the children of immigrants who left Europe long time ago.
Haiti akin to the other islands around the Caribbean Sea will remain in the ebb of growth and development as long as the issue of dual nationality remains a ghost raised by the politicians to scare the nationals as well as the sons and the daughters who by choice or necessity have chosen to belong to another country from returning to the motherland.
In the age of globalization the citizens as well as the corporations have difficulty in confining themselves to one country. The nations that refuse to apprehend this new phenomenon are condemned to remain backward, underdeveloped and marginal to the tide of progress and prosperity.
March 12, 2012