As the new way official messages are being relayed to the people, President Jovenel Moïse took to tweeter yesterday to announce his choice for a new Prime Minister, twenty days after the former PM, Jack Guy Lafontant was forced out of office. The newly nominated Prime Minister is none other than the three-time presidential candidate for the parti Renmen Ayiti, M Jean Henry Céant. The President noted in his statement that this choice has been discussed with the leaders of the two houses of parliament and awaiting legislative approval. Once the nomination and the official decree announcing the nomination have been ratified by the legislature, the Notary Public in private life, Jean Henry Céant will become the 21st Prime Minister in the past 30 years.
If this choice comes as a surprise to any, it is in part the PHTK tèt kalé’s decision to hand over the Premiership to the opposition parties that have worked closely with the President’s office. According to Secretary General of the Cabinet, Reynald Lubérice, the shortlist of four candidates from which the current premier was chosen included Fils Aimé Ignace St Fleur, General Manager of the Office of Monetization of Public Aid Programs for Development, Bureau de Monétisation des Programmes d’Aides publiques au Développement (BMPAD), Mr. Uder Antoine, current Executive Director of the Provisional Electoral Commission, CEP; Mr. Edgar Leblanc, leader of the OPL party and Mr. Céant, all of whom have good working relationships with the current government.
Former Prime Minister Evans Paul, who is a founding member of the parti Konvansyon Inite Demokratik (Kid), praised this choice in a letter made public yesterday, in which he lauded the new Prime Minister select as accepting courageously to undertake this heavy responsibility during these particularly difficult and complex socio-political times that the country is going through. Mr. Paul, who is also the leader of the Council of State (États généraux sectoriels) calls this choice and acceptance as a patriotic undertaking in the sense that this compromise transcends the different sectors and political and social organizations within the nation and as such accepting the new premier will certainly allow the country to get out of the political impasse and address the void created by the departure and dismissal of the Lafontant government on July 14, 2018, following the violent clashes during July 6-8 after the government announced removing the fuel subsidy as dictated by the IMF. In his praise for the new premier, Mr. Paul said Mr. Céant is known for his openness and interpersonal skills, and will be a unifier, capable of generating a climate of social appeasement necessary for implementing public policies that works to improve the lived conditions of the people.
For her part, Ms. Edmonde Supplice Beauzile, leader of the Fusion des sociaux démocrates party, while welcoming the choice made by the President, calls on the incoming Prime Minister to start early dialogue with all sectors of society in order to arrive at a pact on governability, all the while acknowledging the multitude of things that needed to be ironed out before governance can proceed.
Prior to the announcement, several opposition groups have been calling for the President himself to step down because they feel the events of July 6-8, 2018, following the increase in fuel prices and the subsequent rescinding of the increase, that precipitated the departure of the Prime Minister is grounds enough for the President to resign. One of the group which calls itself the Secteur démocratique et populaire laid out their plan to put the country back on track at a press conference last Thursday. In the plan, the President and his government resigns, and a 36-month transition period decreed within which all the problems of the country are solved before the next elections, with a government headed by a member of the supreme court (Cour de Cassation) who will then choose his own Prime Minister, preferably from the opposition group, before an inclusive government is formed. Other proposals from the radical group is to go ahead with prosecution of those involved in the Petrocaribe scandal, raise the minimum salary and propose a responsible budget. Yet another other scenario involves slashing the Executive budget by 30%, all grants are eliminated, and ministries reduced to 12, while the budgets of health, education, agriculture and the police are increased by 25%. These details for the post-Jovenel period is considered a concrete step that was missing in their earlier proposal.
Another group that is proposing similar ideas is the socio-political group known as Viv Ayiti which, beyond the ideas floated above is calling for dissolution of the legislature, both houses, for not respecting the wishes of the people. Instead, a council of state comprising of three (3) respectable and accepted members from the political, business and human rights sectors with a mandate for three (3) years to form a government of national consensus which will lead to a national conference and constituent assembly. They will facilitate the building of state institutions with the objective to foster real and sustainable development. The body will be controlled by a council of 21 elders whose mandate will end with the installation of new members of parliament chosen from the peasant, religious, trade union, academic as well business sectors. The group also calls for the international community to accompany them in their struggles without any interference, in order to affect the will of the people to put an end to all unfair and unacceptable forms of administration, instead, to promote respect for state institutions. As of now, the choice of the new prime minister has been met with guarded silence. There seem to be a consensus that the President may have made a good choice, but the test of this satisfaction will come in the coming days.
Despite this, there have been demonstrations planned for several days in August to protest the very issues mentioned above. According to Guy Numa who is the spokesman for a group of organizations calling for redress, the 6, 7, 10, 14, 17, 22 and 27th have been set aside for demonstrations calling for the President to resign and for those involved in the Petrocaribe scandal to be prosecuted. Another group of protesters observed a sit-in in front of the Dean’s office at the state university UDH to call for the resignation of the Dean Fritz Deshommes and the reopening of the Faculty of Ethnology which has been closed for over a year. According to Jean Paul Bastien, spokesman for the alternative socialist party, parti Alternative Socialiste (ASO), the government has been lackadaisical in handing the crisis within the Faculty of Ethnology following the June 12, 2017 incident in which a student was run down by the bus driven by dean Jean Yves Blot.
Meanwhile, in an interview with the online news outlet AlterPresse, the Orthopedic Surgeon Philippe Desmangles of the state university hospital, l’hôpital de l’Université d’État d’Haïti, criticized the deplorable state of the nation’s leading health facilities. According to him, lack of qualified personnel, and equipment such as oxygen tanks create very critical situation at the hospital, coupled with unreliable electric supply that creates a dangerous situation where patients are not being adequately cared for. He expressed his exasperation and frustration at the irresponsibility of the authorities at the Ministry of Health who have been indifferent to the plight of the nation’s health care establishments where patients perish due to lack of care. He called for a change in mentality to improve the health care in the nation. Since 2016, operations at most of the public hospitals and health care centers have been disrupted by strike actions aimed at forcing the government to improve working conditions, and demand for salary adjustment and increases. This is the case with the Mirebalais hospital which has been paralyzed by a strike action called yesterday to demand wage increases for the workers.
Finally, results of the official examination for the 9th fundamental year across the country has registered a 65.92% success rate, which translates into 142,145 candidates out of a nationwide total of 215,647 students. This rate is lower than the 77.37% last year when 164,585 were successful out of a total of 212,723 student. The departmental scores are as follows: The South, Southeast and Nippes departments respectively have 52% (5,857 out of 11,215 candidates), 59% (5,148 out of 8,794 candidates) and 62%(4,009 out of 6,467 candidates). These figures represent the lowest success rate across the country. The best performing department is the West with a success rate of 73% (68,838 out of 94,876 candidates), followed by the North and Northwest departments with 66% and 65% respectively. The Northeast department had a 59% success rate (5,120 out of 8,724 candidates) while the Central Plateau department has a 54% success rate (8,552 out of 15,827 candidates) and the Grande Anse (southwest) and Artibonite (North) registering a 62% success rate.