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The case against the 1987 Constitution

It dawned on me that one of the reasons why democracy, which emphasizes compromises and tolerance of opposite views, could never work in Haiti is because absolutism is an integral part of our psyche.

Indeed, absolutism shapes our philosophy, our politic, our culture, and particularly our intellect.

Haiti has had more than its share of incompetent leaders, but René Préval is right up there. How such a visionless, and uninspiring man came to be elected twice president of Haiti symbolizes what is wrong with the country. The man is the archetypical “president de doublure” operating of a script he neither understands nor controls. At times, Préval sounds confused. Even his backers have on many occasions expressed dissatisfactions with his lack of initiatives as evidenced by Bill Clinton and Ban-Ki Moon’s comments admonishing the government to assume its responsibilities.

Préval is expected to finish his term which expires in 2011, while the country teeters on the brink of a violent upheaval. The culprit being the 1987 Constitution which is anachronistic and unsuitable to the needs and aspirations of the people it meant to serve. Besides the absurd Article 149 that confers the presidency to a non-elected individual, the president of the Supreme Court, in case the presidency becomes vacant, most Articles are ineffectual or impractical and should be discarded.

All in all, the man is the perfect minion for the clique that facilitated the February 29th 2004 coup, taking into account his indifference to the deteriorating situation that could engender a bloody confrontation from which would emerge only losers. It is therefore imperative to establish the appropriate mechanisms that would spare future generations of Haitians the ignominy of being ruled by a Préval-like president, if the country were to move forward.

The 1987 Haitian Constitution may be the only living document amended before it takes effect. It comes with its own amendments; many of its Articles are ridiculous while others are redundant and confusing. For example, Article 261, which states that any child is entitled to love, affection, understanding and moral and physical care from its (sic) mother and father, is plainly ridiculous. I wish someone could explain to the nation why parental obligations need to be enshrined into the Constitution, and the confusion surrounding Articles 174 and 177. The former mandates that Judges of the Supreme Court and the Courts of Appeals be appointed for 10 years and Judges of the Courts of First Instance for 7 years. But according to the English translation of the Constitution, the latter states that Judges of the Supreme Court, the Courts of Appeals, and the Courts of first Instance are appointed for life, and may be removed from office only because of a legally determined abuse of authority or be suspended following an indictment against them. The confusion resulted in the arbitrary removal of 5 Supreme Court Judges in 2005 by Gerard Latortue (2004-06) and their replacement by political appointees that today act as protectors of his ignoble legacy.

Indeed, abolishing the 1987 Constitution will put some divisive issues to rest and help Haiti move forward, since the document does not represent the socio-economic realities of the country. For instance, those clamoring for the reconstruction of the Haitian army would have a chance at convincing the Haitian people that an army is in fact needed and how they intend to pay for it. Because the 1987 Constitution mandates a standing army, the proponents of the reconstruction of the Haitian Army consider its abolition an unlawful act that must be reversed. While one cannot argue with this logic under the rule of law, reconstructing an army is impractical, ruinous, and remains beyond the financial capability of the Haitian government, so is the mandate under the same Constitution (Article 32-1) to make schooling available to all, free of charge.

Moreover, Articles 90(1), 96, and 135(d), which mandate that anyone seeking to be elected to the legislature or the presidency be the owner of at least one property in the country, are discriminatory, because they arbitrarily exclude the overwhelming majority of Haitians from elective offices. These particular clauses are unquestionably offensive and amount to class warfare. It was precisely these medieval clauses that emboldened the architects of the February 29th 2004 coup to disenfranchise the people and facilitate the occupation of the country (2004-?). Finally, what about Article 41, which specifically and unequivocally forbids the exile of Haitian citizens under any circumstances? Apparently, the constitutional assembly that produced the 1987 document was simply engaging in an academic exercise that proved detrimental to the country’s citizenry because the final product is impractical and does not reflect the realities at hand.

“Constitityon sé papyé, bayonêt sé fè”, Haitians are fond of saying. The present reality validates this argument. Because the 1987 Constitution provides the perfect cover for the primitive absolutism prevailing in Haiti, abolishing this worthless piece of paper would help put an end to the charade. Even Gerard Latortue will agree.

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Haitian Times

Haitian Times

The Haitian Times was founded in 1999 as a weekly English language newspaper based in Brooklyn, NY.The newspaper is widely regarded as the most authoritative voice for Haitian Diaspora.
Haitian Times
May. 05, 2012

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