Santo Domingo cannot use sovereignty and the doctrine of non-interference in a country’s internal affairs to shield itself from criticism over the court ruling that essentially renders stateless 250,000 persons of Haitian descent born in the Dominican Republic, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves says.
“I know that argument, I confronted it in the first letter I wrote to President Madina of the Dominican Republic. I said that persons may raise the fig leaf of sovereignty and the doctrine of non-interference in the internal matters of a state,” he told a press conference on Monday, where he also said St. Vincent and the Grenadines will continue to put pressure on the Spanish-speaking nation to rescind the court decision.
“There are certain matters which transcend these,” Gonsalves said in reference to sovereignty and the doctrine of non-interference.
The Constitutional Court in the Dominican Republic, in a Sept. 23 ruling, denies Dominican nationality to anyone born after 1929 who does not have at least one parent of Dominican blood.
The ruling comes under a constitutional clause declaring all others to be either in the country illegally or “in transit”.
Gonsalves said that the Dominican Republic has “international obligations, human rights issues.
“It is a fundamental matter of humanity, of civilised life, that you are a citizen in the country where you are born,” he said, adding, “There are some narrow band of cases where a country may say if you just happen to be passing through, in transit, you take the citizenship of your parents.
“But how can a man be transiting through the Dominican Republic since 1929? That’s absolutely ridiculous!” said Gonsalves, who has written twice to President of the Dominican Republic, Danilo Medina, protesting against the ruling.
“That’s absolute rubbish! It is offensive to all right thinking persons and they must know that,” he further said.
Gonsalves has also written to CARICOM asking that it abandon its tepid response to the situation and the CARICOM bureau will meet next week to discuss the development.
Port-au-Prince is a member of CARICOM and Santo Domingo has applied for membership.
But Gonsalves said that the 15-member regional bloc will not welcome what would be its first Spanish-speaking member until Santo Domingo resolves the issues of the court ruling.
“First of all, the Dominican Republic can’t come in CARICOM until this matter is settled. Cannot! Because, the rules are, once one country says no, that is the end of that. This country says no. That is the end of that. That is clear. Full stop! Exclamation mark!” he said.
“In this Caribbean in the 21 Century, you have people being discriminated against on the basis of the origin of their ancestors and their ethnicity? And this component of our Caribbean civilisation called St. Vincent and the Grenadines will stand askance on that? No! No! No! You can say what you want about me, cuss me as much as you want, but there is no way anybody can tell me that is permissible on the ground of sovereignty or internal affairs,” he said.
Gonsalves also said that he is calling for Santo Domingo to be suspended from CARIFORUM, a bloc that includes CARICOM and the Dominican Republic.
He said the Dominican Republic gets a lot of benefits through the links with Europe that CARIFORUM provides.
The Prime Minister further noted that he has asked President of Venezuela, Nicola Maduro, to consider suspending the Dominican Republic from benefits under the PetroCaribe agreement, Caracas’ oil pact with Latin America and the Caribbean.
“Unless the Dominican Republic can give us a credible plan within the shortest possible time to correct, in whatever legal form, this dastardly ruling of their constitutional court, I will continue to maintain the positions which I am maintaining,” Gonsalves said.
He said what is happening in the DR is having an impact across the world.
“Right-thinking people, of whatever ethnicity, feel a sense of abhorrence at what is going on.
“Then, the people who are of African descent have additionally a sense of outrage, because they know what has happened historically in this region, in Latin America, in the United States of America, in North America as a whole, in Europe.
“So, this is something, which, in the 21st Century, we have to stand askance against and take a firm line. And I don’t want any wishy-washy approach on this question. The government of this country is firm and resolute on this,” Gonsalves said.
Gonsalves, however, said that he is “practical enough to know that tomorrow, the government of the Dominican Republic can’t just say the decision of the constitutional court is gone.
“They have to take into account — you have processes in place; but that is why I say you have a credible plan in the shortest possible period to correct this outrage.”
He said he has seen reports where Haitian immigrants not captured by the court ruling are being “rounded up”.
“Rounding them up on what basis? Because they are speaking French Creole and not Spanish? Because they are black?” he said.
“I know in my heart that what we are doing is right in my mind. I know it is the Christian thing to do, I know it is the Godly thing to do, and I thank God that he has inspired me to take the stance that I have taken and to take it with such fortitude, such forthrightness. The people who are there suffering, they know that there is a voice like mine and others,” he said.
He further said that the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) has to say something about the situation in the Dominican Republic.
“There are certain things that go beyond sovereignty and internal affairs. They touch the elemental humanity of our civilisation, and that is the point I was making in the letter. And I will continue to speak out, and the government will continue to speak out.”
Gonsalves said that he was receiving via email “lots of abusive stuff”.
“But that doesn’t faze me. It only makes me stronger, because I know that on this issue, I am on the side of the angels. Who want to take the side of the devil can take it and cuss me,” he said, adding that he knows that millions of people worldwide are supporting the stance that the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines has taken in “denouncing this flagrant violation of the human rights of persons on the basis of their national origin and ethnicity.
“This is what it is in plain terms,” he further said.