By Calibe Thompson
Haiti’s embattled president Michel Martelly is out, but not without great incident. News reports describe violence in the streets, a purported stolen first round of elections, and an elected leader seemingly unwilling to turn his office over to a new candidate.
The reports remind me of the place I grew up. Jamaica and Haiti are the two largest Caribbean island-countries where black people came to power after colonial rule. We share and embrace an innate, almost tribal aggression that rears its head at predictable moments. These are most often when in the eyes of the people heads of government, perhaps enamored with the idea of a monarchy, thwart or ignore democratic procedures.
Jamaica’s constitution still does not place term limits on elected leaders, so leaders have held on to the position of Prime Minister, the highest elected title in the country, for up to 14 years. Even so, we might consider that a better position than Haiti, who was under dictatorship up to as recently as 1986. Their elections seem to be fraught with the same type of challenges as those that strained Jamaica for many years. But the journey to independence is a circuitous one, and the tides are turning in both countries.
We can see by the political unrest in the Middle East as well that the journey to democracy is not without its ongoing issues. And as recently as 2016’s first US Republican caucus, there have been allegations of vote stealing. So not even the great United States is immune from election challenges. But as our close neighbor, Haiti’s transitional troubles are clear and present.
As a Jamaican, seeing this reflection of our past versus where we are now gives me hope. Jamaica’s political discourse has become far more civil in my lifetime, and I believe that it will continue to improve, as will Haiti’s.
Despite Haiti’s multi-year rank as one of the top ten most corrupt countries in the world, the Haitian community’s political organization in South Florida is a true force. Let us hope that the good they do here will soon be reflected back at home.
Calibe Thompson is the host and producer of “Island Origins”, airing Mondays at 10:00PM and Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 9:00PM on BECON-TV (Ch 63 / Comcast 19). Visit www.islandoriginstv.com.