PM Ingraham on Visit of Haitian President from FNM Restoring Your Trust on Vimeo.
Rt. Hon. Hubert Ingraham
Comments on Official
Visit of Haitian President Michel Martelly
THE PRIME MINISTER:
I want to make some comments about the commentary that has been appearing
in the press in connection with the commentary by the President of Haiti
(President Martelly) during his visit to The Bahamas.
Firstly, I want to say the The Bahamas
Government did not invite President Martelly to The Bahamas. There is
no need for The Bahamas to invite the President of Haiti or any other
president of a friendly country to The Bahamas. A government of any
country with which we have relations, can have their head of government
visit The Bahamas at any time they choose. It doesn’t require our
permission to do so.
Just as I do not need the permission
of the President of the United States to travel to America, or in travel
to Jamaica, Barbados, Haiti. etc.
As a courtesy, heads of government
will inform the government of the country in which they are visiting,
if only to ensure that certain security arrangements and protocol arrangements
are put in place.
I became aware through the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs on Saturday that President Martelly intended to stop
in The Bahamas en route to Mexico. It was then confirmed later in the
day Saturday that he would be spending the day and night in Nassau and
he requested to meet with the Governor General and the Prime Minister.
The meeting with the Prime Minister
was scheduled for 12 noon on the day he was in town. Mr. Branville McCartney
of the unestablished party calling itself the DNA, says that I invited
President Martelly to The Bahamas. That is untrue.
In recent times, Mr. Christie of
the PLP felt occasion to remind Mr. McCartney that he ought not be telling
lies. I can do the same thing. When you tell more than one lie, you
become a liar.
One of the things that young politicians
and old politicians ought to do is to establish themselves as credible
persons; that you take steps to verify things before you make pronouncements.
You don’t go and shoot your mouth off and make statements that are
untrue and that can easily be verified in advance. Carelessness is not
a good thing for a young politician, or indeed an old politician. I
caution Mr. McCartney not to continue telling lies.
Secondly, the President of Haiti
made several statements as reported in the press and through the broadcast
media on two items that appear to have elicited public concern.
Firstly, there were no FNM politicians
at the function at Joe Farrington Road. There was a PLP Member of Parliament
and former attorney general Mr. Alfred Sears and the PLP candidate for
Fort Charlotte Dr. Andre Rollins, at the meeting with some 7,000 or
more Haitian and/or Bahamian nationals.
My recollection is that President
Martelly had the meeting the day he arrived, and the following day he
went to see Mr. Christie. He went to Mr. Christie’s house where he
met Mr. Christie’s wife and a number of his colleagues.
Presumably, if Mr. Christie had an
issue with what President Martelly had said, he would have raised it
with President Martelly while he was at Mr. Christie’s house. He certainly
would not have waited until last night (Friday) at his candidates launch.
Clearly, that’s what I would have done if I had taken issue with a
statement that Mr. Martelly had made.
At the time he had come to see me,
I was unaware of the comments he made, and I had not seen them in the
newspaper or heard them on the radio. One of the statements that he
made that I take issue with is when he said children of Haitian descent
born in The Bahamas are entitled to citizenship and that they are Stateless
because they cannot apply for citizenship until they reach the age of
Such persons are not Stateless; they
have the nationality of their parents under our Constitution which differs
from the Haitian and the American Constitution. Persons born in The
Bahamas of non-Bahamian parentage do not have a right to Bahamian citizenship
until they reach the age of 18 and subject to them making an application
before they reach the age of 19. Otherwise, they lose that right.
And so from birth until 18 they are
nationals of the country of their parents; mostly their father. The
Haitian Constitution differs from that. And so I think that President
Martelly was mistaken in suggesting that our position was identical
to Haiti’s or the United States, because persons born in the United
States become citizens of the United States at birth. That is not the
position of The Bahamas.
With respect to the second statement
he made which was that he encouraged his former citizens who have become
citizens of The Bahamas to support the political party of their choosing
at election time: he was perfectly entitled to make such a statement.
In fact, quite frankly, I don’t
see why it would be difficult for The Bahamas countenance saying to
Bahamians living in America, Jamaica or Barbados, etc, that if they
are going to vote and they are entitled to vote in those countries,
that they ought to choose the Party that best fits what their interest
And so, insofar as the persons who
are citizens of The Bahamas who were formerly Haitian nationals, we
certainly look forward to receiving the votes of the majority of Bahamians
whether they were born in The Bahamas or naturalised in The Bahamas
or otherwise. We certainly look forward to receiving the majority of
votes of persons who have been naturalised of Haitian parentage and
who have been in The Bahamas for a long time because we do think that
Haitians and others in The Bahamas have determined that the FNM is the
best Party for them.
Did President Martelly have to get permission from The Bahamas to hold
the meeting he had?
PM: No. And let me give you
an example. The PLP went to London to meet with Bahamian students in
connection with the election that is coming up to encourage them to
support the PLP because they have overseas voting. They went to Jamaica
to do the same thing. They went to Miami, Atlanta and I believe New
York, etc. Do you think they asked President Barack Obama whether they
could come and do that? Of course not. Did they ask Prime Minister Cameron
(of Great Britain)? No, they didn’t. Why should the Haitian or the
Jamaican or anybody else need to ask us permission to do so? We are
a free country. We are a democracy. And just as we are able to go to
other people’s country and meet with our nationals at any time of
our choosing, why shouldn’t they have the same right to do so in The
Secondly, its not the first time
the Haitian President has met with his nationals in The Bahamas. And
it is not the first time other heads of Government have met with their
nationals in The Bahamas. The reality is that they do not get as much
publicity as the Haitian President got for his visit. It has happened
before and it will continue to happen. I’ve gone to Canada and had
a function for Bahamians, I’ve done it in Jamaica, Trinidad, New York,
Miami, Atlanta. I assume Mr. Christie did so. I know Mr. Pindling did
And in doing so, we speak to them,
answer questions from them about whatever issues come up or whatever
we want to talk to them about. And the Haitian President therefore was
perfectly entitled to meet with his nationals and those who are former
nationals of Haitian descent.
What we must not forget is, the fact
that a person was formerly of one nationality and chooses to change
that nationality, does not mean any more than if you become an adopted
child and you have your adopted parents who look after you. It doesn’t
mean that you don’t care for or have any interest in your natural
parents. And the same thing would apply to someone who is a former national
of another country and who becomes a national of this country or any
other country - their interest or concern for their home country will
not disappear simply because they change their nationality. That is
Q: Did you discuss concerns
regarding Haitian/Bahamian relations with Mr. Martelly?
PM: I have met with Haitian
presidents on many occasions. We have continuing dialog with the Haitian
Government because of our particular interests in matters related to
migration and the extent to which the Haitian Government can help to
dissuade its nationals from coming to The Bahamas illegally, and the
extent to which they can be cooperative in the repatriation of nationals
from The Bahamas. That is of great concern and of great interest to
ourselves and the Haitian Government has been very forthcoming, very
supportive, and most accommodating in all the exercises The Bahamas
has ever sought to do.
What must not be forgotten - and
all of you are very new reporters - so let me remind you of something
that you might be able to find in your archives or take as a historical
When the FNM won the government in
1992, the relationship between The Bahamas and the Haitian government
was such that The Bahamas could not repatriate any Haitian nationals
to Haiti. They were locked up in Fox Hill Prison and they could not
be sent back to Haiti.
We established protocols with the
Haitian government and we have maintained those protocols, and so any
day we can advise the Haitian government that a flight is coming in
at 5:00pm - we give them reasonable notice, and they are most accommodating
at all times. We want to continue to maintain that.
But specifically during this trip did you meet with him to have such
PM: I had a public meeting.
He came to my office. He saw the Governor General, he saw the Leader
of the Opposition and he saw me. What you didn’t have is all the photographs
of me laughing up with him and my wife being introduced to him and all
of my colleagues joining in the photograph as one big happy family and
then several days later [my] saying “you (Martelly) did a bad thing.”
You didn’t have that. We had a normal, sensible discussion about the
Haitian Government’s interest in exporting agricultural produce to
The Bahamas, in increasing their business to The Bahamas and in providing
opportunities for Haitian nationals to find Haiti more attractive to
go back to Haiti.
Haitians have made significant contributions
in the development of The Bahamas whether in the public service or in
the private sector, and we treat Haitians like we treat other nationals
- we treat them all equally. They know who is better at looking after
their interests. For those who are illegal in The Bahamas we have regular,
consistent repatriation exercises.
We have populated the Defence Force
with more craft than it has ever had in its history. We bought them
two new aircraft since we came to office and 10 new boats. We are opening
up a new Defence Force base in Ragged Island. We have now put Defence
Force officers in Grand Bahama, Abaco, and in Inagua - all by the FNM
- primarily to deal with migration, poaching and illegal drugs.
From our point of view, the Haitians
have been very cooperative whenever we’ve had the opportunity or need
to repatriate. So have the Cubans. And so have other Governments and
we’d like to maintain that. We had no special meetings with the Haitian
President or anybody else.
Q: President Martelly told
his nationals not to riot. Is there any concern there?
PM: I think that that must
have been a mistranslation on his part, I think. I think that he would
normally have said that they don’t have to agitate or demonstrate.
I don’t think that he meant to say the word riot. But if he did, clearly
I don’t agree with that, but I do not think so. That is not been my
view of him in all the discussions I have had with him either in The
Bahamas, or on the sidelines at various international meetings that
we have attended together. He comes across as a very reasonable person
who understands our particular concerns and who is willing to assist
us in any way he can in terms of reducing the number of illegal immigrants
who come to The Bahamas - I don’t think he meant that.
Q: Does the Government have
an estimate of the number of illegal immigrants in The Bahamas?
PM: No, if I had that I’d
be delighted, so that I could be able to go and find them. But there
are thousands of persons of Haitian descent who are Bahamian citizens
and who have been becoming Bahamian citizens since 1973. And some of
them even before 1973 were naturalised in The Bahamas. I’ve seen people
as old as 75 years old who have been in The Bahamas for 40-45 years
who were legal in The Bahamas and who are just getting their status
straight now. And of course the young ones who become 18 who go to your
school who you do not even know are Haitian apply for their citizenship.
They do very well in our school system, and they become citizens. They
are policemen, Defence Force officers, civil servants, etc. One of the
Under Secretaries in the Government; his mother is Haitian.
You have heard before that Stephen
Dillet, the first black person elected to the House of Assembly in The
Bahamas, was of Haitian descent. They are a part of our society, that
is the reality, so our job is to assimilate them and to make sure that
they are Bahamians, and to help to culturalise them to be Bahamians;
not to have them living in enclaves, etc.
Insofar as illegal persons are concerned,
whether they are illegal Haitians, Jamaicans, Africans, Brazilians,
Peruvians, etc, we want them not to be in our country and as we find
them, we will repatriate them.
Q: Do you think this whole
situation was blown out of proportion because of the current political
climate or did Bahamians have a right to be concerned about what was
PM: Who am I to determine
what Bahamians have a right to say? This is a free country, Bahamians
have a right to say whatever they wish to say. Bahamians, generally
speaking, are very sensitive about foreigners and very sensitive about
foreigners telling them anything about their country and what to do,
etc and so they are perfectly entitled to feel incensed and outraged
I would think that in terms of households
in The Bahamas, that the vast majority would have been enraged when
they heard the comments in the context in which they were given, etc.
But I think upon reflection, to look
at the comments that he (President Martelly) made, that one can see
that they are not as outrageous as one thought they were.
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