It’s been six months since the earthquake and Haiti has made solid strides in dealing with this unfortunate natural disaster. The government moved quickly to remove bodies from the streets. Camps, though squalid, have been set up for the homeless. There is a consensus among many that the lot of the poor has improved since the earthquake. Poor people have benefited from world class physicians who have descended into Haiti to help. Food aid that eluded them is not readily available. While some people are not satisfied with the pace, rubble removal is taking place throughout the capital. The schools have been re-opened. The list of progress goes on and on. Naturally there is much more to be done. What took 35 seconds to destroy may take more than 35 years to rebuild.
We’re hoping that President René Préval can seize on this opportunity to reconnect with the Haiti people. Préval needs to call a news conference and address the nation. He needs to outline what his government has done since the earthquake, apologize for his perceive aloofness and reassure people that he is with them.
Préval also needs to ask the people for their patience and explain to them there will be highs and lows along that long haul to a better life. He can share with his people how after six years, New Orleans, is till not quite there yet. He needs to let them know that this is happening in one of the richest and most powerful countries in the world. He can also tell them about New York City where nearly 10 years after the attacks on the World Trade Center, there remains a huge hole in the ground. In New York, money was not certainly an issue and some of the best people run the Big Apple. You need to reassure them that you’re not making excuses and that experts all agree that it takes time for any society to come back from a devastation.
Préval needs to challenge the people to respect building code and the rule of law in society. He needs to remind them that we’re all in this together and that is the only way out the situation. Préval is historical president in the sense that he is the only leader elected twice by popular vote to carry out his terms. That is a strong legacy, but his handling of the crisis in the beginning left many perplexed and he has to redeem himself. Préval may not pay much attention to his legacy, but if he doesn’t turn this ship around, history will not be kind to him. He would be remembered for the man who lost the nation, not the president who inherited a fractured society and piece it together under the most difficult situation.