I've mentioned before that Lovinsky was the head of a group called Fondasyon Trant Septamn (September 30th Foundation). The group, which works with victims of the 1991 coup in Haiti, was named after the date of that coup -- September 30th, 1991. On Friday, it'll be the 20th anniversary of that date.
As I mentioned in my previous post, our Prime Minister went to Haiti today.
There's this photo of his previous visit, in 2007. I've been sketching from it, recently. I want to use it in a cartooning assignment. But here it is:
In this photo, Harper is in Site Soley. It's a medical clinic in Site Soley that, presumably, Canada provides aid to. In advance of this visit -- which, let's face it, was just a photo opportunity -- several political organizers were arrested. They were planning to protest Harper's visit to Site Soley and make the argument that, really, the cameras shouldn't be pointing at little medical clinics: the big emphasis on Canadian "aid" to Haiti was in the form of the Haitian National Police -- a police force that's been pretty brutal in places like Site Soley.
And, of course, in an ironic twist, that same police force rounded up the leaders of the protest so that journalists wouldn't be confused about where to point their cameras. I should mention that one of the prominent community leaders who spoke out about the arrests was Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine.
What I admire most about the picture is the women. Particularly the woman in red. She gets what's going on. Harper is mugging for the cameras. In the presence of poor, tragic Haitians, mired in economic misery.
And she doesn't even deign to notice his presence. What she's denying him is respect -- which, for Haitians, is probably the most valued thing that they have.
The bill of particulars is too long to go into here, but the destruction of the new museum of Culture, the breaking up of the medical school, the destruction of the children's television station gives you the flavour. But the essence is captured in the brutal attempt to obliterate the spirit of Haitian community; the attempt to destroy Lavalas by murdering its men and raping its women, the American-directed subversion of a real police force, the attacks on education and the obliteration of the community self-help systems which meant that when Hurricane Jeanne and all the other weather systems since have struck Haiti, many more have died than in any other country similarly stricken. In an earthquake, totally unpredictable, every bad factor is multiplied.
The American blocking of international aid means that there is no modern water supply anywhere, no town planning, no safe roads, none of the ordinary infrastructure of any other Caribbean state. There are no building standards, no emergency shelters, no parks.
So, when I write about mothers unwittingly walking on dead babies in the mud, when I write about people so poor they must eat patties made of clay and shortening, when I write about people with their faces 'chopped off' or about any of eight million horror stories from the crime scene that is Haiti, please don't tell me you share their pain or mine.
Tell me, where is Lovinsky Pierre Antoine and ten thousand like him?
If you share my pain and their pain, why don't you stop causing it? Why don't you stop the torture?
— John Maxwell, No, Mister! You Cannot Share My Pain!, Jamaica Observer
I wish it didn't take an earthquake to get to this point, but I am encouraged by all of the conversation I see linking the current disaster to the last two decades of international policy in Haiti.
In March 2005, I was invited to Montreal and Ottawa to join a small delegation of human rights and political activists, journalists, and lawyers, to meet with students, the Haitian community, the media, and, on Parliament Hill, Liberal MP (then-special advisor to the PM on Haiti) Denis Coderre, to expose, discuss and denounce Canadian support for the coup.
This would be the first and one of the only times that I met Lovinsky Pierre- Antoine, who was then in political exile. In those few short days as we travelled around from venue to venue, I was able to gain an appreciation for the respect that he commanded with his intellect, his political astuteness, and his cerebral demeanor. On only one occasion, Lovinsky stepped out of his cool mould and delivered a fiery and militant speech that electrified the Haitian community in Montreal. It would later occur to me that during that speech I observed the threat [of a good example] that Lovinsky posed to the new status quo in Haiti, especially as he would later return from exile to his country and would, apparently, entertain the possibility of running for public office.
— Anthony Fenton, For Canada, Disappeared Haitian Leader is an 'Unworthy Victim'
The General Assembly of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, at its 17th Congress in Hanoi, Vietnam, having considered the effects of the United Nations Mission for the Stabilisation of Haiti (MINUSTAH) on the human rights and, in particular, the economic, social and cultural rights of the overwhelming majority of people in Haiti:
1. Strongly condemns the continuing use of excessive force by MINUSTAH and Haitian police, resulting most recently in at least five deaths in April 2009, in an attempt to put down justified protests against soaring rents and food prices, extreme food shortages (leading to the increased sales of cakes made of mud, oil and salt), coupled with mass unemployment;
2. Expresses profound concern at reports of increased structural uncertainty resulting from abductions and summary executions, including the "disappearance" in August 2007 of Pierre-Antoine Lovinsky, coordinator of the human rights organisation, September 30th Foundation;
3. Recalls that MINUSTAH, whose present mandate is due to expire in October 2009, is the only UN peace-keeping mission to be deployed in the absence of a pre-existing peace agreement, while the Haitian Constitution prohibits the presence of any foreign force on Haitian soil;
4. Resolves and requests as follows:
a. That MINUSTAH immediately cease and desist from all violations of the rights of the people of Haiti and provide full and fair compensation to victims and the families of those killed and injured by MINUSTAH forces;
b. That the United Nations Security Council shall not renew the mandate of MINUSTAH and order the withdrawal of MINUSTAH forces so that Haiti may recover full sovereignty in accordance with its Constitution.
— From the International Association of Democratic Lawyers website
[...] the Haitian government has appointed an Investigating Judge (Juge d’Instruction) to investigate the disappearance of Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine. The judge started holding hearings last week. Attorney Mario Joseph of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), representing Lovinsky’s family, participated in the hearings. He reports that the judge is off to a good start. Two people have been arrested in the case, both in connection with possessing Lovinsky's cell phone.
— Announcement from Half-Hour for Haiti
I'm going to see what I can find out about this.
When asked about progress made by Haitian authorities towards solving Mr. Pierre-Antoine's case, Brian Concannon stated, "I have not heard of any report from any Haitian authorities on Lovinsky's disappearance, despite requests from Lovinsky’s family, Fondasyon Trant Septanm, members of the U.S. Congress and human rights and Haiti solidarity activists from around the world." In describing the progress of investigations made by the Haitian police in the case Concannon commented, "We also know that the police have repeatedly failed to follow up on leads they have been provided. It is hard to escape the conclusion that the Haitian government is not reporting on its investigation because it is not conducting one."
Gee. If only some wealthy first-world nation would send some well-trained police to Haiti to help educate the local forces.
Justice and peace spring from our inherent dignity and inalienable rights. As stipulated in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: All human being are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Today, this spirit of brotherhood prevents us from remaining silent. Yes, it is already one year since the disappearance of our brother Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine. On this sad anniversary, as we call for his safe return, we defend our inherent dignity and inalienable rights. Lovinsky’s absence certainly increases great passions, such as the passion for justice and peace.
Indeed on this sad anniversary all of us who share in a commitment to non-violent struggle for justice and peace once again proclaim that the human rights of all must be protected by the rule of law. Authorities in Haiti must address this tragic kidnapping for a safe return of our mission brother.
May the spirit of this brotherhood revitalize and strengthen Lovinsky’s family as well as all innocent victims who have suffered since the February 29, 2004 kidnapping.
Dr. Jean-Bertrand Aristide
Pretoria, South Africa
August 12, 2008
I never did get a good chance to blog about International Blog Against Racism week. Pretty much the whole week, I was on the road, and far from any internet connectivity.
And it occurred to me: Tuesday the 12th will be the one-year anniversary.
Today I join you in honoring the many and great contributions of our friend and brother Lovinsky Pierre Antoine. At the center of his work has been the dignity of the Haitian people. It guided Lovinsky as he raised his voice in unison with the people of Haiti in denouncing injustice, struggling for a better life and pursuing a non-violent path towards a democratic and free Haiti for all.
If Lovinsky were there with you today, his deep and bellowing voice would echo the demands of Haitians and the world’s poor for respect of the fundamental and human right to food and freedom from hunger. His resolute commitment to peace and justice would demand no less. In his absence, it is fitting and right that the Haiti Solidarity Network of the North East shine a light on Lovinsky’s vision by awarding him with the organization’s Human Rights Award.
May this award symbolize one more step towards a safe return of our beloved brother! Peace and Love to his Family and to Haiti, our Mother Land.
Dr. Jean-Bertrand Aristide
Former President of Haiti
Pretoria, South Africa
May 2, 2008
Join Danny Glover, Martin Sheen, Ron Kovic and others in a 24 Hour Fast for the safe return of Haitian human rights activist Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine Tuesday, Nov. 13 gather at 10:30am outside the Brazilian Consulate 8484 Wilshire Blvd (at La Cienega), Beverly Hills Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, the internationally respected Haitian human rights activist, disappeared in Haiti on the evening of 12 August. He is an extraordinary grassroots organizer beloved by his community, and a leading advocate for the poor, including street children, teenage mothers and victims of torture. Please urge the Brazilian government which plays a key role as head of the UN forces responsible for law and order in Haiti since the 2004 coup, as well as the governments of the US and Canada which are also key figures, to do all in their power, including making resources available to ensure Lovinsky's immediate and safe release to his family and the community who need him.
We all owe a great debt to the Haitian people. Haiti holds a special place in the hearts of many. As the first Black republic, Haiti led the way for the emancipation of those enslaved everywhere; it was a refuge for Simon Bolivar, the liberator of Latin America, and Haitian troops fought alongside him. The spirited and principled determination of Haitian people and their refusal to bend to the powerful forces which have tried to keep them down, have been and continue to be an inspiration throughout the world but especially to those of us who work to defend human rights. Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine personifies the Haitian spirit which refuses to submit despite all the odds.
WHAT YOU CAN DO The Haitian grassroots has called for worldwide actions to press for Lovinsky's release. You can answer their call by:
- Joining to initiate the fast outside the Brazilian Consulate. Commit to fast on Nov. 13, for all 24 hours or whatever part of the day you can. Ask your friends to join you.
- Coming out to support the call for Lovinsky's safe return whether you are fasting or not.
- Signing the petition: http://www.petitiononline.com/august/
petition.html, circulating it in your networks
- Contacting your local press or media to tell them about this campaign to bring Lovinsky back, or calling a fast or vigil where you are
Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine is co-founder of Fondasyon Trant Septanm, an organization formed by family members and others concerned about the victims of the 1991 coup in Haiti. Similar to the work of internationally renowned Mothers of the Disappeared in Central and South America, for over a decade, the September 30th Foundation held weekly vigils demanding justice for victims of human rights violations and for the release of political prisoners. Lovinsky was co-founder of Fondasyon Kore Timoun Yo (Foundation for the Support of Children) for young street children in Port au Prince, FAM (Foyer pour Adolescentes M=E8res), a center for teenage mothers, and Map Viv ("I Live"), a program designed to give medical and psychological aid to the victims of the 1991 coup. His present community-based human rights organization Fondasyon Trant Septnm grew out of the work of those earlier efforts.
Coordinated by the Ad Hoc Working Group on Haiti which includes: ANSWER Coalition, CISPES/LA, Coalition in Solidarity with Haiti, Global Women's Strike/LA, International Action Center, and the Pan African Activist Coalition.
For info call 323-276-9833; email: firstname.lastname@example.org. websites: www.haitisolidarity.net; www.HaitiAction.net; www.globalwomenstrike.net
Green Party says Canada should intervene in Haiti kidnapping
OTTAWA – Green Party leader Elizabeth May said today that the federal government should offer to mediate in an attempt to secure the release of kidnapped Haitian opposition leader Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine.
"Through its previous involvement in Haiti, the Canadian government has gained access to a range of political actors," said Ms. May. "It could play a mediating role in securing the release of Mr. Pierre-Antoine. Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier has an opportunity to help. The question is, does he care and will he even try?"
Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, a human rights campaigner and high profile member of ousted President Jean-Baptiste Aristide's Lavalas Party, was kidnapped in August while touring the country with a human rights delegation that included representatives from the Canadian Haiti Action Network and Toronto Haiti Action Committee. Both have since returned safely to Canada.
Another Lavalas Party official, Dr. Maryse Narcisse, was abducted at gunpoint late last week, but was released unharmed this week after a ransom was paid.
"There is real concern among human rights activists in Haiti and elsewhere that these abductions are part of a renewed effort to intimidate members of the Lavalas Party in Haiti," said Stephen LaFrenie, special advisor on Haiti to Green Party international affairs critic Eric Walton. "Lavalas is a legitimate political party which holds seats in the Haitian parliament."
Pierre-Antoine had recently announced his intention to run as a Lavalas candidate in the next round of elections in Haiti and the party is gearing up for a convention in Port au Prince on December 16, the 17-year anniversary of Aristide's election.
The Canadian government has been silent on human rights violations in Haiti since the overthrow of democratically elected President Aristide in February 2004. It has also apparently taken no action on reports of misuse of Canadian aid by the interim government of Gérard Latortue. The Canadian Rights Delegation is currently on a cross-country tour to investigate serious questions about the effectiveness of Canadian foreign aid and how and where it is being used.
Green Party human rights critic Joe Foster said that the government should be looking into these concerns and using its diplomatic influence to improve the human rights situation in Haiti. "Canada must promote the rule of law and respect for human rights as laid out in the UN Charter," Mr. Foster said.
Action Alert: Haiti-based coalition asks for your help
A broad coalition of Haitian elected officials, community organizations and human rights groups, including Fondayson Trant Septanm (September 30th Foundation) have announced plans for a series of activities in Haiti calling for the safe return of Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine. At a press conference in Port-au-Prince on Monday, August 27th, the coalition, Gwoup Inisyativ Pou Sove Lavi Pierre-Antoine (Group Initiative to Save the Life of Pierre-Antoine), announced that it would stage vigils and peaceful marches this Wednesday and Friday, August 29 and 31.
Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine is a Haitian grassroots leader, member of the Lavalas Party, and the head of Fondayson Trant Septanm, a Haitian human rights organization that advocates for victims of the 1991 and 2004 coup d'etats against the democratically-elected governments of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. He has not been seen since the evening of Sunday, August 12, 2007 after meeting with a U.S. human rights delegation then in Haiti. He is presumed kidnapped.