As of this past weekend, in Covid-19 pandemic update news, 39 new cases have been recorded bringing the total number of infected cases to 6,333 with 113, deaths, 1,549 cases reported as being cured of the virus, out of a total of 13,638 suspected cases according to the Ministry of Public Health. In general, 99 cases of infection were from people coming into the country, with 42 of from the Dominican Republic, and 47 from the US after the government opened the international airport in Port-au-Prince. With the capital city metropolitan area being the worst affected, the Ministry of Education came up with a plan for returning to classes by next month. According to Minister Pierre Josué Agénor Cadet, preparations are under way for reopening of schools in August, students preparing for their final exams will begin classes on August 10th, while others will begin on the 17th. The decisions taken by the ministry include the wearing of masks by both students and teachers, while they practice social distancing in the classrooms. The Minister further stated that the current budget has made provisions for paying teachers. 10,727 educators will receive their first paycheck and those who are owed arrears will be paid in the next budget. Mr. Cadete exhorts educators and students to learn to live with the pandemic while engaging in schooling activities for the current school year while largely online during the pandemic and online activities will end on October 9, 2020. According to the exams timetable, the 9th grade examinations will take place on October 12, 2020 and the baccalaureate will take place on the 19th, while the new school year will begin on November 9, 2020.
In the same vein, the Protestant Federation of Haiti has announced the resuming of religious services starting from next Sunday, July 12, 2020. Services will take into consideration social distancing rules with the first two Sundays used to educate the parishioners on measures to prevent the spread of the corona virus. According to Pastor Ogeda Dorcil, Vice-President of the FPH, the pastors must be responsible for ensuring that social distancing rules are observed and where possible, two or three services could be had in order to ensure that overcrowding does not occurs leading to the spread of the corona virus. These actions include wearing masks and regular hand washing. The 20-point protocol was been adopted during a working meeting of the federation and heads of churches and missions from across the nation.
Meanwhile, the government has suspended the proposed presidential pardon of several criminals in the country’s jails and prisons because of the corona virus pandemic and as ease congestion in the jails. In a communiqué following a cabinet meeting last Wednesday, July 1, 2020, Prime Minister Joseph Jouthe was said to have asked the Justice Minster to suspend the plan because of irregularities in the selection process that caused many people to complain bitterly about the plan. At issue was the list of 430 people that would benefit from a presidential pardon included convicted individuals who had not been fully vetted by the government. This was confirmed by the director of legal affairs at the Ministry of Justice, Mr. Levelt Milord, who confirmed that several lawyers yielded to pressure from some human rights groups who have called for the rapid release of the prisoners during the state of emergency. The scandal had embarrassed the government with the Prime Minister promising to hold those government workers who provided the list to the Executive, accountable for their apparent error. The Ombudsman, Renan Hédouville welcomed the government’s decision and called on the government to undertake a detailed and transparent investigation into the matter, Mr. Hédouville further called on the government to include all stakeholders in the investigation process, including human rights organizations, the federation of Haitian Lawyers, office of the ombudsman, heads of the courts and prosecutors. However, Mr. Hédouville rejected the Justice Minister’s assertion that the Office of the Ombudsman was involved in the selection process for those to be pardoned. While agreeing with the criticism of the selection process, the Justice Minister conceded that the investigation so far has resulted in punishing of two government commissioners and made it possible to trace those authorities responsible for including seven names on the list to be pardoned. The investigation continues in the Aquin jurisdiction and Grand Rivière in the North for four other people incriminated in the affair.
While on the topic of justice and prisoners and presidential pardons, the special advisor to the President, Guychar Doré stated that the government is open to dialogue on the new penal code submitted to parliament. While there was speculation on aspects of the penal code, the government official assures the public that the government has not altered any article of the code which was 25 years in the making, a code that begun under the administration of René Préval. The government is said to be listening to public input and instructs the population to desist from listening to rumors as the introduction of gay marriage in the law, stating that the civil code forbid this type of marriage and it has not been modified.
In other news, the electoral commission is in tatters now as the human rights groups’ representative to the CEP, Jean Simon Saint Hubert resigned effective immediately, following a letter to President Jovenel Moïse in which the counselor criticized the government and how the regime is now a de facto government, with the presence of the president on at the head of the nation as a coup d’état.
Finally, the Dominican Republic has voted for a new president and the winner is Harvard educated Luiz Abinader of the modern revolutionary party, du parti Révolutionnaire Moderne (PRM). Mr. Abinader plans to rekindle bilateral relationships between the two countries by encouraging cross border trade. On the issue of Dominicans of Haitian ancestry, the president-elect plans to study the rules and regulations in place and even though there no direct policy regarding this thorny issue, he stated plans to proceed with respect for the dignity and rights of the people concerned.