mardi 31 mai 2011

'Miracle and hope' in Haiti

By Song In-yeup It has been 500 days since a terrible earthquake hit Haiti hard in the center of the Caribbean Sea. As a result Haiti suffered a shortage of daily goods, crime, violent demonstrations and cholera, what we call “a fivefold difficulty.“ But since Feb. 4, Haiti has begun to stabilize and its people go through daily life with hope now, though still in the midst of difficulties.
It is President Michel Joseph Martelly, who took office on May 14 and has ignited a “miracle and hope” in Haiti. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak also congratulated Martelly through his special envoys Yoo Ki-june and Kwon Young-jin.
Martelly, a 50-year-old singer, was only one of the unnoticed minor candidates when he started his campaign last October. The first survey showed 1.5 percent support for him, sixth among 19 candidates, while Manigat had 31.5 percent and Celestin 7 percent.
But he jumped to third by gaining 21.4 percent succeeding Manigat with 31.4 percent and Celestin’s 21.8 percent in the first presidential election held on Nov. 28, 2010. But only Manigat and Celestin, the first and second runner, could stand in the final election slated for Jan. 16.
It was right after the announcement of result of the first presidential election that furious voters began to take to the streets shouting "Celestin Out!" accusing him of illegal campaigning using power and money.
All the major cities in Haiti were covered in black smoke from burning tires. And all the ministries, schools, banks and markets were closed. Even the Port-au-Prince Airport, the only international one in Haiti, was shut. That's why an airplane, loaded with cholera medicine which the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) was sending to Haiti, could not land there and had to go back to Miami.
The angry protesters' outcries and gun-shots were heard even in my house and tear-gas entered the house unless I kept all windows closed. Nevertheless, the ruling party and Celestin, son-in-law of the President, seemed to stand solid. And Haiti seemed to have no hope.
The U.N., donor countries and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) could not do their work. Demonstrations went on day after day and the final presidential election scheduled for Jan. 16 was not held and drifted on to an unfixed date. Is Haiti helpless?
It was on Feb. 4 that the ruling party and Celestin surrendered to the power of the people amid increasing demonstrations and a censure from the international society. He resigned his candidacy. Demonstrations ended swiftly and streets were returned to order.
Peace continued until the final presidential election day of March 20 while both small and large political rallies were held in harmony and joy. They looked like festivals. The incredibly large group of voters assembled voluntarily to listen to Manigat and Martelly with no trouble and the two candidates enraptured them. It was indeed a political festival and was carried in order, better than in any advanced country.
Finally, the revolution or miracle of election took place. Martelly, who received 1.5 percent support in the first survey in October and 21.4 percent in the first election of Nov. 28, took 67.7 percent of the votes in the final election of March 28 while Manigat secured only 31.6 percent. Martelly was elected President with an absolute majority.
Martelly's administration started out on May 14 with a lot of hard things to deal with such as recovering from the terrible earthquake, dealing with cholera, poverty, no social and economic infrastructure since 30 years of Father and Baby Duvalier's dictatorship and the repeated coup d'etats over 20 years. But Martelly is filled with strong resolution and energy to sacrifice himself for his country and people.
And almost all of Haitians show strong faith in him. Haiti is strongly united around Martelly. It is indeed a miracle. And it is the beginning of social security and national reconstruction.
The U.N. and international societies including those in Korea have promised to cooperate and provide full support to the new government of Haiti. Martelly is known to have a strong will to make Korea, which accomplished national development in only one generation, as his national model.
It is high time that our country, as a full member of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), also should give as much support as we can to Haiti which is beginning to recover from the earthquake's damage.
Of course, we should implement our $10 million which we committed at Donors' Meeting for Haiti held at New York on March 31 last year in timely fashion.
We are living in the 21st century, called an era of globalization. We cannot be considered civilized people if we view Haiti's calamity as a fire beyond the river.
Song In-yeup is the chief representative of the Haiti office of the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA). He can be reached at iysongg@hanmail.net.

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