Please read part one first
The Commission’s report indicated controversies existed around the last criteria. Rather than the parliament, ex-Prime Minister Gerard Latortue of the provisional government that replaced ex-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s administration after his forced exile in February 2004 relieved Gousse of his duties as Justice Minister. According to the report, Former Prime Minister Latortue based Gousse’s discharged on a 1983 presidential decree from the Duvalier era; thus bypassing the dictates of the 1987 Constitution that specifically assigned that responsibility to a parliamentary bicameral commission. Such commission would, through a thorough review of Gousse’s dossier, ensure he did not engage in any acts of corruption or other illegal activities during his tenure. As Senator Jean-Baptiste Bien-Aime affirmed during the heated session, “The executive branch cannot discharge any of its members.” However, the Commission stopped short of making any recommendations to the senate on Gousse’s fate.
“We, the honorable senators of the Republic, members of the special committee trusted to review the case of designated Prime Minister, Mr. Bernard Gousse, refer to the wisdom of the Assembly that will ultimately decide,” concluded the commissioners. Two of the nine-member special parliamentary commission declined to sign its report: Senators Jean Willy Jean-Baptiste and Edwin Zenny.
Bitterly divided senate
Seizing upon this point of contention the pro-Gousse minority, led by Senator Yuri Latortue of the Artibonite Department (North), demanded the immediate return of the report to its authors, citing the lack of recommendations. However, those efforts proved futile in the face of an unshakable coalition keen on deterring Gousse’s passage through the upper house.
As the debate inflamed in the senate, Senator Latortue and colleagues recalled a similar, more recent case in June 2006 where former Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis who also received an executive discharged, survived the ratification process under ex-President Rene Preval. The opposition deflected such claim as unjustified, enumerating many differences between Alexis’ case and that of Gousse.
Senator Jean Rodolph Joazil, president of the Senate, eventually put Gousse’s fate to a vote after the exhaustive fire-spitting session. Predictably, the majority bloc remained unimpressed with their colleagues’ tireless political maneuvers and dashed Gousse’s hope. Meanwhile, the remaining senators abstained in spite their fervent pro-Gousse arguments; a strategy they hoped would nullify the vote. “I’m not saying that the report is incomplete,” said Senator Latortue, “But it’s missing the recommendations.” Those efforts did not materialize because the Constitution provided no provisions requiring senators to vote, reasoned some senators who argued that a majority vote was enough to reject Gousse’s nomination.
“The vote did indeed take place,” President Joazil told Agence France Press (AFP). “16 senators voted, the others would not pronounce. The president will have to appoint another Prime Minister,” he added.
Familiar downward Spiral
While preparedness for tropical storm Emily absorbed much of the news, both parties engaged in spirited justification campaigns in the media, their fingers pointed at each other. Meanwhile, the population grows increasingly divided and intolerant.
In his initial reaction, President Martelly articulated, “We’re asking ourselves what they want to do with the country, with kids going to school and our pending agenda.” The president made his remarks while visiting the immigration office in the capital where he met journalists seeking answers. “But it essentially remains their right,” he said, speaking about the senate majority that rejected Gousse. “We will meet with out political team to figure out how we move forward from here,” Martelly later added.
Gousse’s reaction in a press conference held the day after the senate sent him packing animated senators from the majority who felt vindicated by what they labeled a vindictive and arrogant attitude. “We have what we call a schizophrenic senate,” Gousse told reporters. In spite of the human rights allegations leveled against the former Justice minister by senators, no legal actions have been taken against him. In fact, the National Network in Defense of Human Rights (RNDDH), a watchdog organization that monitor human rights violations in Haiti, rejected such claims, admitting while there were political persecutions during his term in office, found no direct involvement on the part of Gousse. “The ratification process,” Gousse underlined, “was the confrontation of good and education, on one hand, and absolute evil incarnated in barbarism, of which, the main victims are the vulnerable of the nation,” he added.
While Haiti is no stranger to political deadlock, the road ahead is anything but certain. Former leader Rene Preval, after going without a prime minister from 1997 to 1999, dissolved the parliament in January 1999 and ruled by decree for about a year. As many people feared the worse amidst the latest developments, others however, acknowledged the similarities and risks associated with the two crises, but called the latter a necessary political exercise as leaders struggled to find a common ground. Meanwhile, a nation awaits a new prime minister nomination, hoping it moves the country past the current political gridlock and returns the reconstruction and cholera debates to center stage.
- Haiti lawmakers reject leader’s 2nd pick for PM (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Haiti lawmakers reject leader’s 2nd pick for PM (sfgate.com)
- Haiti: Strike Two! 16 0f 30 Senators Oppose Prezy Martelly’s Second PM Nominee (hcvanalysis.wordpress.com)
- For PM, Martelly Picks Former Justice Minister Who Persecuted Aristide Supporters under Illegal Gov’t. Selected by US in 2004 (hcvanalysis.wordpress.com)
- Haiti president confident second PM passes (seattletimes.nwsource.com)