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Haiti’s newsreel by Dela Harlley

Back to school is fast approaching and the Ministry of Education, MENFP, has created health protocols to insure a healthy and safe return of students to educational institutions which came to a halt since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in early March 2020. Some of the protocols include cleaning of all equipment and school buildings with chlorinated water, especially where people have gathered in the premises. During a press conference at the center for information on Covid-19 (Centre d’informations permanentes sur le coronavirus (CIPC), the School Health Director Dr. Erold Joseph stressed that there should be amenities within schools such as basins with water and soap so that students can wash their hands when they come to school and when they leave and at all other intervals such as going to recreation or to the toilet. Dr Joseph also stated that schools do not need sophisticated water basins or places to wash hands; basins can be placed in strategic positions across the school compound. The proposed health measures include the use of masks as much as possible while on premises and social distancing, allowing for students to stand one meter apart from each other and from teachers as well. Once social distancing is respected, it would not be necessary to put on masks, but masks must be made available to all students.  As far as recreation goes, it is advised to be conducted as a group or a class and done sequentially. The education ministry plans to be responsible for any medical and psychological costs incurred in the event a student tests positive for the virus. In such instances, the student suspected of contracting the virus will be tested and the results would remain confidential. The Ministry of Education and the state have planned to use the Dignité public buses to transport students and they must wear their masks on the public buses. Schools are scheduled to re-open on Monday, August 10, 2020, the ministry plans to have inspectors in place to oversee the health protocols and to make sure these instructions are adhered to. The school inspectors will work under the auspices of the Ministry of Education at the department level, together with departmental health officials.

 

Meanwhile on the political front, eight (8) members of the Electoral Commission have collectively resigned effective, Monday, July 27, 2020 via letter addressed to President Jovenel Moïse. The group stated their decision to resign is aimed at facilitating and placing more emphasis on dialogue among key actors within the government, the opposition, and civil society to reach a consensus on moving the country forward. To the commission members, this step is a necessary and inevitable step in coming to a viable solution that can address and curb the actual crisis; and a prerequisite for reliability and success of an inclusive electoral process. That the members of the electoral commission would resign was no surprise because once the human rights representative on the commission resigned last week, it was expected that the rest would follow suit. The commission has been rendered ineffective with the way the ruling party, tèt kale, injects politics into their affairs. The regime has rejected official institutional opinions of the Superior Court of Accounts and Administrative Disputes, CSCCA, which on two occasions invalidated the contract the tèt kale government signed with the German firm, Dermalog, to print electoral cards. And just last Sunday, July 19, 2020, the president declared that he could win the next elections, regardless when the upcoming elections take place.

 

In related news, the Federation of Haitian Bar Associations, La Fédération des barreaux d’Haïti (FBH), published a position paper in which they called on President Jovenel Moïse to withdraw decrees he signed, in violation of the Constitution. According to the lawyers, the constitution does not confer the Executive, the power to take the place of the legislative power to enact laws and decrees that have the force of law. The legislature has not been functional since January 13, 2020 because the Executive branch failed to organize elections to replace law makers whose terms have expired. The position paper also stated that the policies of the current government of Joseph Jouthe has not received a vote of confidence from a sitting legislature, and since his installation, the government has not been under any legislative control. Adoption of hastily passed decrees that seek to modify current laws, the current government is creating an environment that is not conducive to the rule of law, which the nation tries to emulate. For instance, some sectors of the population have criticized  the changes to the penal code that was published on June 24, 2020, which is considered unconstitutional, as some of the changes do not meet the sociocultural realities of the population. The association of judges have brought to attention the modifications to the penal code that sets the age to be considered adult for both men and women. They suggest a change to articles 277, 304, 384 to place the age of consent for both men and women at 18 years old.

 

Finally, Prime Minister Joseph Jouthe has promised to address the crisis at the state electric company, EDH, through dialogue, after speaking with workers during a visit to the headquarters last Monday. In his interaction with the workers, the Prime Minister assured the workers and the union that contrary to rumors and perceptions of privatization, there is no plan to privatize the state institution and that the newly appointed Director, Michel Présumé, is not there to break up the company and sell it to the private sector but rather to execute the roadmap of the government. The Prime Minister made it known that he himself was opposed to the privatization of such state companies as Minoterie, Natcom and Téléco.

Dela Harlley

 

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