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Following last week’s incident at the Antoine Simon Airport in Cayes, in which protesters set ablaze a small aircraft belonging to an American company that flew relief missions during the August 14, 2021, earthquake, authorities are moving to adopt measure to secure the airport and resume flights as early as possible. The airport provides connecting flights to the international airport in Port-au-Prince. During the March 29, 2022, demonstrations, the control tower and other structures at the airport were also damaged, before police was able to dispel the crowd and secure the area from further damages. Reliable sources revealed that about 30 officers are now stationed on the premises to secure the area and avoid vandalism. The Director of the national airport authority, de l’Autorité Aéroportuaire Nationale (AAN) Mr. Yves Ducarmel François announced on a radio program Monday that Haiti had yet to pay for the aircraft that was set on fire, a craft that costs upwards of US$8million. Mr. Francois further stated an airport is an essential tool in the development arsenal of the country and must be protected at all costs. This accident of vandalism has called in to question the need to modernize and secure all airstrips across the nation and the government must harness resources to that effect. Some ideas in the works include extending the landing strip, building a new terminal in both Cayes and Jacmel and building a new mobile control tower. It is reported that the Departmental Police commissioner in the area has been relieved of his duties, and rumors have it that the district attorney in the area will also be replaced. Also, the prosecutor has issued a warrant against the organizers of the protest march that resulted in the burning of the airplane. Civil society leaders have expressed their disgust and anger at the idea that a warrant be issued against civilians who were marching to protest the blockade of Martissant by armed gangs. A more egregious repulsion by the area’s population is the way the interim Prime Minister Ariel Henry was quick to condemn the attack on the airport but was mute about the police repression of the protesters which resulted in a death and many wounded. 

In other news, the political organization, Reconstruire Haiti (RHPREH) has said that interim prime minister Ariel Henry is major obstacle to the political stability of the nation. The organization argue that the prime minister has taken the country hostage and acting like an apprentice dictator plunging the country further into misery and hopelessness. While congratulating Dr. Emmanuel Menard of the reformist Louverturean party, Parti Force L’overturienne Reformiste, and members of CADOA who officially withdrew from the September 11 accord with Ariel Henry, the party reiterated its position, by demanding the application of the1987 constitution, to fill the presidential vacuum by the formation of a bicephalous government of national unity  to ensure and guarantee the security of the citizens across the country,  proceed quickly to hold honest, inclusive and democratic elections, renew political personnel to restart  all republican institutions, prepare executives of the Sovereign Haitian National Conference and  start of the PetroCaribe trial. The RHPREH believes that it is important to organize elections in the country, but, in the current context marked by generalized insecurity in addition to kidnapping, no election is possible.

Meanwhile, a ruling in the US Court of Appeals of the Second Circuit held that three former leaders of the country, Michel Martelly, Jocelerme Privert and Jovenel Moïse as well as numerous money transfer and telephone companies operating in the country must face a new anti-trust lawsuit in the United States. This decision handed down by a three-judge panel seeks to overturn a decision by Judge Michael H. Simon, who ruled in 2021 that the lawsuit was doomed by the doctrine of “the act of state” because it sought to establish accountability on the basis of official sovereignty policies of the Haitian government. But Judge Michael H. Park, writing for the appeals court, said Simon took too broad a view of the doctrine when he concluded that it prohibited him from ruling on “the ‘property’ of official acts of Haiti. Judge Park rejected the idea that the doctrine “outright precludes courts from adjudicating cases involving passing judgment on the policies, laws and motives of a foreign sovereign.” It only excludes legal claims that effectively seek to have the acts of a foreign sovereign declared null and void, according to the judge.

At issue is the allegation that telephone and wire transfer companies Western Union Co. Unibank, Unitransfer, CamTransfer, Digicel, Natcom and the three former Haitian presidents devised a scheme to fix the price on transfer of funds and long-distance calls to Haiti. The scheme allegedly involved the US$1.50 that is charged on transfers and telephone calls to the country, as imposed by formal executive actions of the Haitian government. The case began in 2018 following complaints filed against President Martelly for a grant program called PSUGO which was launched in 2011 to fund free primary education for children across the country, with revenue accrued from a $1.50 surcharge on money transfer and international phone calls. The decision was made unilaterally by the sitting president at the time, without any legislature action to that effect. The suit alleged that no such education program has ever been created or implemented. As part of the scheme, the tax defendants told customers that the fees were, in fact, collected under a “statutory tax” for education, and just months after the publication of the presidential decree, $26 million was diverted into the new National Education Fund (FNE), a portion of which was withheld, instead of passing the full amount to the Haitian treasury. Martelly and his successors Jocelerme Privert and Jovenel Moïse, during their respective terms, personally benefited from this money, according to the indictment relating to the trial, with Martelly reported using some part of his transfer tax money for a beach house. The plaintiffs in the case are Odilon S. Celestin, Widimir Romelien, Goldie Lamothe-Alexandre, and Vincent Marazita, while the defendants are in addition to the three presidents listed above, Unibank SA, Unigestion Holding, SA, DBA Digicel Haïti, Natcom SA and Caribbean Air Mail Inc.

Dela Harlley

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