#Haiti, February 12, 2019 – The situation in Haiti is once again volatile as a new round of riots, calling for the resignation of President Jovenel Moise has forced officials to cancel Haiti’s Carnival.
The economic implications are forecast to be disastrous for Haitians who depend on the event, for Haiti’s tourism which is linked to the celebration and countries like The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos say they are paying attention and stand ready in the event of any exodus from the embattled republic.
“It is a serious situation that we are watching pretty closely and actually have been watching it since November of last year where things have been heating up in calling for the resignation of the President. In addition, there are some concerns about the handling of aide that is coming into Haiti and that is an ongoing problem which has plagued from one government (of Haiti) to the next,” said Sean Astwood, Deputy Premier and Border Control Minister of the Turks and Caicos Islands in a one on one with Magnetic Media on Monday.
Operation Bahamas and Turks and Caicos, which involves the US Coast guard is designed to circumvent drug interdiction but that help stands ready.
“That Operation is put on alert for this type of activity that any movement on the water, they pay attention to it and they have assisted us on a number of occasions in the past with being able to successfully turn around vessels headed to The Bahamas or to the Turks and Caicos Islands.
In 2018, nine vessels were turned back to Haiti by the US Coast Guard, in a single effort.
DP Astwood said there is communication with the United Kingdom too; the UK is directly responsible for national security as the TCI is an overseas territory of Mother England.
“We have already engaged the UK on this. My officers from the Task Force and Immigration are on high alert. The Commission of Police and I are in discussions about this as well to ensure that we are taking all of the necessary precautions that we can. Basically, we are bracing for any potential fall out that would impact us this way.”
In recent days, since the cancellation of the Carnival festival in Haiti, there have been no ships landing or intercepted in Turks and Caicos waters.
The Deputy Premier said still, everyone is on high alert as human smuggling attempts could gain traction as a result of the ongoing protests.
“In the past we have seen where, when you have this type of unrest the number of sloops will try to make it our way as people try to flee the chaos over there (in Haiti). We are cognizant of the situation and are taking the necessary precautions to combat it and deal with it as best as possible.”
In nearby Bahamas, on Sunday, a somber mass funeral service was hosted by the Haitian League of Pastors and paid for by the Haitian Consulate in The Bahamas. As many as 30 Haitians, who died in a boating tragedy in the Abaco Cays on February 3, were laid to rest.
The Royal Bahamas Defence Force and Bahamas Immigration reported that a sailing yacht or catamaran had crashed into the coral reefs on and split in half. The impact of the vessel running aground reportedly flung those on board into the water, many of the men and women could not swim.
Thirty-five bodies are believed to be unrecovered in the mishap and there were 18 survivors taken in by Bahamian authorities with the help of civilians and volunteer group, Bahamas Air Sea Rescue Association (BASRA).
As the Turks and Caicos and The Bahamas work to solidify bi-laterally agreed upon ideas of greater amalgamation through a soon to come Memorandum of Understanding, the TCI’s Border Control Minister shared that the Turks and Caicos stands ready with Operation Guardian still activated.
“It has been the most efficient and longest sustained operation that yielded great results. Last year we repatriated over 3,000 persons out of the country. Now that is including from illegal sloops as well as on land, but Operation Guardian is responsible for more than fifty percent of that number…”
In Haiti, at least eight people are reported dead in this fifth day of violent protests. The Chamber of Commerce is calling on the President to end the demonstrations which have led to businesses being burned and ransacked. Business owners have expressed that ‘Operation Lock Down Haiti’ will only end when the President and Opposition forces engage in negotiations to pacify the thousands of Haitians demanding Moise’s resignation, a mere two years into his presidency.