Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar says she will monitor the situation in the Dominican Republic and will consult Caricom's secretary general Irwin La Rocque and the Caricom Bureau on the best way forward to finding a resolution to the matter.She made the comment after UWI-based arts group Jouvay Ayiti visited her St Clair office, Port-of-Spain, yesterday to deliver a petition with over 800 signatures from the Caribbean and its diaspora calling for trade and other embargoes to be placed on the Dominican Republic.
The group has added its voice to global calls condemning the September 25 ruling by the Dominican Constitutional Tribunal which rendered many Dominicans of Haitian descent stateless.The group donned J'Ouvert-like costumes, such as moko jumbies, devils and bookmen, during yesterday's action and also delivered the petition to the Dominican Embassy at Queen's Park West, Port-of-Spain, before ending at the PM's office.
In a release to the media last evening, the office said the PM acknowledge receipt of the petition "in support of Dominicans of Haitian descent, following the September 2013 ruling of the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic, which strips Dominican citizenship from immigrants entering the country since 1929 and that of their offspring.
"Mrs Persad-Bissessar has noted with great concern the issues raised in the letter. She recognises the difficulty and uncertainty that those persons in the Dominican Republic whose status and rights have been cast in doubt now face."Equally, the Prime Minister respects the sovereign independence of the Dominican Republic and of its Constitutional Court," the release said.The ruling, according to Jouvay Ayiti's petition, has outraged the international rights community.
The group's director, Rawle Gibbons, defined the Dominican Republic's ruling as outrageous and said a dangerous precedent had been created.Caricom, he said, had a primary responsibility to respond to the issue, adding a "weak kind of statement" had been made but that was late and ineffectual.However, Dr Jose Serulle Ramia, ambassador for the Dominican Republic to Trinidad, said claims that approximately 300,000 Haitian descendants would be deported from the country in the wake of the ruling were false.
Instead, he said, the Haitian descendants have been given two years to regularise. He invited Persad-Bissessar to send a delegation to observe the regularisation process. Deportation, he said, was only applicable to those entering the country now in an illegal way.
Asked about calls for the country's application to Caricom/Caribbean Development Bank to be reviewed and a trade embargo placed on the country, Ramia said Caribbean countries were like brother and sister and should not act like enemies. He said those proposals were against the solidarity of the peoples of the Caribbean.