Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has repeated his opposition to a policy in the Dominican Republic that denies citizenship to persons of Haiti descent born in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean nations who are now subject to “deportation” to Haiti.
He told reporters that what is happening in the Dominican Republic is a “stain” and “antithetical” to the further ennoblement of the Caribbean civilization.
Gonsalves was speaking on his return to St. Vincent and the Grenadines from the EU-CELAC meeting in Brussels, where the matter was discussed.
Gonsalves told reporters in Kingstown that that he made a proposal during the summit that was included in the final communiqué.
He said that the Dominican Republic wanted to have just a discussion, and he told the Santo Domingo delegation that he took that to mean that they want help.
The United Nations refugee agency has urged the Dominica Republic to ensure that Haitians and Haitian descendants whose citizenship was thrown into question by a 2013 ruling of the Constitutional Court will not be deported.
Gonsalves said consideration is being given for benchmark standards to be set up and for a monitoring mechanism to be put in place for CARICOM and the EU and the Dominican Republic to monitor the progress.
“Because what is happening in the Dominican Republic is simply unacceptable,” he said, adding that he was well briefed on the subject and knew what he was talking about.
“And the Foreign Minister of the Dominican Republic didn’t get away with selling a bill of goods, the description of which was not what it was held out by him to be,” Gonsalves told reporters.
“A lot of people ask me, ‘Why are you, Ralph, so strong on this matter?’ I say, ‘I am strong on this in the same way that I was strong on other things’,” he said, and mentioned reparation for native genocide and slavery and the further ennoblement of the Caribbean civilisation.
“It is unacceptable to have a public policy in relation to citizenship, grounded in ethnicity or your national origins,” Gonsalves said.
He said how Santo Domingo deals with Haitian migrants was a different issue from its attitude to persons of Haitian descent who were born in the Dominican Republic.
“…persons of Haitian descent born in the Dominican Republic, who, by any international standard, should be citizens of the Dominican Republic, they are denied citizenship and they are denied citizenships on ethnic grounds or grounds of national origins,” Gonsalves said.
He said that these persons don’t have anybody to talk for them, so he has to be their voice.
“I have to do it because I know Jesus would have done it,” Gonsalves said.
He told reporters that the talk this month was the first time that the Dominican Republic has reached out and said they want help.
“But we can’t help on your terms. We have to help in a manner which advances the rightness of the cause. I appreciate some of their difficulties and challenges … but I have to deal with the principle and let us see how we can manage in going forward in solving the issue practically.”
Gonsalves also rejected what he said was the position of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Dominican republic, whom he quoted as saying that the issue was one of sovereignty for Santo Domingo to resolve.
“And I told him he has a notion of sovereignty which has stood still in 1648 in the Treaty of Westphalia at the end of the 30 years war when there was a pristine sovereignty.
“The question of sovereignty has evolved in theory and in practice and in the 21st century, the fact that you are sitting down with us from CARICOM and the European Union discussing his business is a sign that the sovereignty is not pristine. If the sovereignty was pristine, he would have told us go to hell, metaphorically speaking,” Gonsalves said.
He said the Dominican Republic has subjected itself to certain international standards which it must uphold, and noted that the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has found that what the Dominican Republic is doing is wrong.
Gonsalves said that instead of following the instruction of the court, Santo Domingo proceeded to have an application before their constitutional court to say that the country is not bound by any decision of the Inter American Court because the document that would have bounded jurisdiction was not properly ratified.
Reports indicate that the Constitutional Court said that when the Dominican Republic joined the jurisdiction of the regional court in 1999, it had done so without respecting its own constitution.
“You can try any kind of legalism you want, but the fact remains that there are international standards and there has been a pronouncement on it,” Gonsalves said.