Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves used his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Friday to address a number of regional and international issues, including the world body’s role in the cholera epidemic in Haiti, political developments in Latin America and the war in Syria.
The cholera epidemic, which broke out six years ago, is believed to have been imported by United Nations peacekeepers. In August, the United Nations a role in the outbreak but retreated behind diplomatic immunities.
Gonsalves described the cholera outbreak as a catastrophe and noted that it has killed over 10,000 Haitians and infected almost 800,000 others.
“The outbreak shows no sign of abating,” Gonsalves said.
He said that the UN “acknowledged its culpability, while continuing to use claims of immunity to deny the victims of this tragedy their fundamental right to be made whole.
“The cholera epidemic and the UN’s failure to address or arrest it has laid bare a shameful ethical bankruptcy and institutional cowardice through legal subterfuge. The draft report on this issue by UN Special Rapporteur Professor Philip Alston has called the UN’s response to the cholera epidemic ‘morally unconscionable, legally indefensible and politically self-defeating.’ We agree,” Gonsalves said.
He further noted that in Haiti’s neighbour, the Dominican Republic, the human rights crisis affecting tens of thousands of Dominican-born citizens of Haitian descent remains unresolved.
Santo Domingo has passed a law that has stripped thousands of persons of Haitian descent born in the Dominican Republic of their citizenship, thereby rendering them stateless.
Gonsalves said: “As the Caribbean Community and other actors have sought to persuade the Dominican authorities to respect the rights of its citizens against statelessness and state-sponsored ethnic and racial victimisation, the UN’s indifference is wholly unacceptable.
“It is becoming difficult to imagine precisely what type of human rights catastrophe could befall Haiti or her descendants that would cause the United Nations to act in a caring, responsible or credible manner.”
On the issue of reparations for African slavery and native genocide, Gonsalves said that the 15-member Caribbean Community’s determined quest continues to gather momentum.
“Historians, economists, other academics, human rights lawyers and social activists have coalesced into a formidable advocacy and educational force in this cause, and our citizens continue to be enthusiastically engaged in the process of discussion and awareness,” he said.
“We call upon the European nations that created and profited immeasurably from this indefensible trade in human beings to join us in the conversation about the contours of a just and appropriate response to this monumental tragedy and its consequential legacy of underdevelopment.”
Gonsalves described as a “parliamentary coup d’etat” the on Aug. 31 impeachment and removal from office of Brazilian president Dilma Roussef — who was re-elected in October 2014 to a second four-year term in office.
“The people-centred and progressive leaders of Latin America and the Caribbean, who dared to dream of alternatives to an iniquitous status quo, are once again being punished for their impertinence.
“From the continued embargo of the noble Cuban people, to the externally-stoked unrest in Venezuela, to the parliamentary coup d’etat in Brazil, we are entering a new but depressingly familiar chapter in a book already soaked with the blood of progressive heroes,” Gonsalves said.
He added, however, that “yesteryear’s schemes of dirty tricks and divisions will fail in the face of a new solidarity that has taken root across our region. Within CARICOM, CELAC, ALBA and the signatories to the PetroCaribe agreement, our states understand the unshakeable strength that comes from unity, and the courage of our collective convictions.
“We know that there are solutions for our region and our people other than the flawed hand-me-downs of external hegemony. Our hard- earned solidarity in the face of new adversity will be a standing rebuke to their ambitious machinations.”
Gonsalves said that for a transformed globalisation to be legitimate, it must be fully inclusive.
“Its inclusivity must be based on the principles embodied in the letter and spirit of our Charter: Sovereign equality, non-interference, and an end to the type of cynical enabling of great power intrigue at the expense of people’s lives and livelihoods.”
He said nowhere is this cynicism and “feigned impotence” more apparent than in the civil war that has devastated Syria over the last five years.
“This Assembly and the Security Council have too frequently turned a blind eye and a stilled tongue to the actions of countries that sought to fund and foment war and instability in Syria.
“Military victory is not available for anyone in this conflict; clearly creative diplomacy is the answer,” Gonsalves said.
He was the Security Council of the role that the Security Council has played.
“Seduced by the externally-crafted narrative of an ‘Arab Spring’ the Security Council shifted its attention from the role of the global economic crisis in causing unrest and instead embraced the same regime change playbook that once caused them to imagine weapons of mass destruction in places where none existed.”
The Vincentian leader told the United Nations that beyond the many compelling theoretical and practical arguments for an expanded and reformed Security Council — which St. Vincent and the Grenadines wholeheartedly supports — the on-going ineptitude of the current Council on Syria is “a self-evident justification for rapid and far-reaching form.
“Today, Syria has devolved into an old-fashioned proxy war, with the added unpredictable element of savage terrorists who commit cold-blooded murder in the name of God. Today, as warring factions and their benefactors retool and resupply under the guise of a fragile cease-fire this body and the Security Council have a special responsibility to devote clear-eyed diplomatic effort to a realistic, lasting termination of hostilities and reunification of Syria,” Gonsalves said.