Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadine...
Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines Dr Ralph Gonsalves at the Very Small States Conference (Photo credit: Commonwealth Secretariat)

Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines has never been afraid to speak his mind. So it is not surprising that he has come out in the strongest terms against the constitutional court ruling in the Dominican Republic that has served to render thousands of people of Haitian descent stateless. See my previous post on the issue here. In contrast to the weak statement issued by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Prime Minister Golsalves has roundly condemned the ruling and called on the government to act immediately to reverse its effect.

He said in part:

“…this ruling by the court is unacceptable in any civilised community. It is an affront to all established international norms and elemental humanity, and threatens to make the Dominican Republic a pariah regionally and globally.

“Some in your country may well consider all this to be an unwarranted interference in the internal affairs of the Dominican Republic. Plainly it is not!

“The fig-leaf of sovereignty cannot be invoked when time-honoured and universal principles of citizenship and human decency are trampled upon.”

Organisations around the world from the Congressional Black Caucus in the United States

Map of the Dominican Republic
Map of the Dominican Republic (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

to the Editorial Board of the Washington Post to Amnesty International have taken up this issue. We need to hear CARICOM speak out more strongly on this matter, and we need to hear the government of Jamaica speak just as forcefully.

I am well aware that Foreign Affairs Minister A.J. Nicholson spoke about the issue at a function recently. That is all well and good, but far from being enough. I am talking about an officially stated position of the Jamaican government, clearly articulated by the Prime Minister, and followed up with official correspondence. A few off-the-cuff remarks doesn’t qualify.

Jamaica was once the Caribbean’s leader in regional and international affairs. Apparently that is now in the past. Thank goodness Prime Minister Golsalves has stepped into the breach.

Below is the text of Prime Minister’s Golsalves’ statement, as published in the Trinidad Express.

“The government and people of St Vincent and the Grenadines are deeply distressed that the constitutional court in the Dominican Republic has, in a recent ruling, denied citizenship to persons of Haitian descent born in the Dominican Republic. This court decision in effect renders stateless, huge numbers of these persons of Haitian descent.

Surely, this ruling by the court is unacceptable in any civilised community. It is an affront to all established international norms and elemental humanity, and threatens to make the Dominican Republic a pariah regionally and globally.

It is subversive of your country’s international human rights obligations as enshrined in several international and hemispheric conventions/treaties to which it is a state party.

As you are no doubt aware, the decision of the court is being widely interpreted internationally as being grounded in jaundiced anti-Haitian or even racist mindset, given the fact that most of the persons deprived of their citizenship by birth are black.

It is thus incumbent on the government and people of the Dominican Republic to stand askance from the court’s decision and set about promptly and practically to make the requisite corrective in accordance with your international obligations.

Under your leadership and that of your distinguished predecessor, the Dominican Republic has made commendable strides to lift its image in the regional and international community and to erase the memory of some of the mischiefs of the past.

Your republic is a vital member of Cariforum, and is in quest of membership in Caricom, to which Haiti belongs. The real, not potential, adverse impact on these regional and other multi-state relationships is self-evident.

The Caricom Secretary General has spoken wisely and publicly against the decision of the constitutional court. So, too, have many outstanding citizens in member states of Caricom including the Most Honourable PJ Patterson, former prime minister of Jamaica and dear friend of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Some in your country may well consider all this to be an unwarranted interference in the internal affairs of the Dominican Republic. Plainly it is not! The fig-leaf of sovereignty cannot be invoked when time-honoured and universal principles of citizenship and human decency are trampled upon.

These precepts go beyond the outermost boundaries of a country’s territorial limits: they are essential to humanity. Moreover, your country has its international obligations.”

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