by Kim Ives (Haiti Liberte)
Sen. Moise Jean-Charles calls it the "vote of shame " and "a scandal."
On Apr, 10, 19 of Haiti’s 30 Senators approved the technical qualifications of Laurent Lamothe, President Joseph Michel Martelly’s prime ministerial nominee, despite vociferous objections and questions raised during a heated late-night session before the vote.
A special Senate commission investigating the alleged illegal dual nationality of Lamothe, Martelly and several other high Haitian government officials recommended that the nominee not be approved due to indications that he did not met constitutional requirements for nationality, residency and the timely payment of taxes.
But pro-Martelly Sen. Wenceslas Lambert dismissed such questions, vigorously raised by Jean-Charles and colleague Sen. Stephen Benoit, as mere "details."
Another special Senate commission reviewed whether Lamothe met the legal requirements to become Martelly’s second Prime Minister,following Garry Conille's forced resignation on Feb. 24. That commission was packed with pro-Martelly senators, many of whom wear pink bracelets (Martelly’s official campaign color), and not surprisingly recommended that the nominee be approved.
Six senators walked out of the vote in protest. "I stayed to vote 'no' because I wanted our arguments about the patent deficiencies of Mr. Lamothe’s qualifications to go down in the historical record," Sen. Jean-Charles told Haiti Liberte. "I was truly shocked at the betrayal of certain principles by certain senators, particularly Joel John Joseph and Maxime Roumer."
Sen. Jean-Charles explained to Haiti Liberte how Sen. Joseph had feigned to be collaborating with him in an effort to block Lamothe’s approval.
"But then, after we had strategized, every few minutes I would see him go over to whisper in the ear of Sen. Joseph Lambert," one of Martelly 's greatest allies in the Senate, Jean-Charles said. "When I asked him what he was saying to Lambert, he claimed it was just procedural questions."
"Imagine my surprise to see Sen. Joseph’s hand shoot up when the vote on Lamothe’s qualifications finally came," Jean-Charles said, shaking his head. "Many senators sold out because Lamothe offered them money and jobs in the Haitian diplomatic service for their wives, girlfriends, or cousins."
Lamothe is still Haiti’s Acting Foreign Minister.
According to another well-placed source, for his "yes " vote, Sen. Derex L. Pierre-Louis, who represents the Northeast Department for former President Rene Preval’s party Inite, was promised jobs in the Haitian foreign service for 15 of his family members, including three of his children, two of whom live in the Dominican Republic. A son of Sen. Pierre-Louis already acts as Lamothe’s security chief.
Sen. Jean-Charles, who met with Haiti Liberte during a brief visit this week to Florida, said that in exchange for their votes, some senators were given envelopes of cash – some containing $100,000, others containing $120,000. That was only the first of two payments.
"Senate President [Simon Dieuseul] Desras called for another vote on the budget after the vote on Lamothe," Sen. Jean-Charles said. "Only three uncorrupted senators showed up for that vote because the second installment of the money for the corrupt senators was not yet forthcoming."
One of Sen. Jean-Charles’ biggest surprises was when Sen. Jean-Maxime Roumer, who represents the Grande Anse Department for Inite, voted to approve Lamothe. "Here is a guy who claims to be a communist, whom I knew from years ago when I was a militant in the National Popular Assembly [APN]," Jean-Charles said. "How can he justify selling his principles to vote for Lamothe?"
According to Jean-Charles, during the session, Sen. Desras passed a note to Sen. Roumer sarcastically saying that he would be giving Roumer a pink bracelet following the session. After the vote, Roumer crumpled up the piece of paper into a ball and threw it at Desras, hitting him on the right side of his face.
"Kolanget manman ou (Fuck you!)" Roumer yelled in Kreyol at Desras, according to Jean-Charles.
A special commission of the Chamber of Deputies is now reviewing 59 documents which Lamothe submitted to it on Apr. 23. That commission said it would give its recommendation in two weeks.
The political stakes in Haiti's Senate are about to get even higher. On May 14, the mandates of 10 senators expire, including those of key Martelly allies Joseph Lambert and Youri Latortue. How this will affect the math and strategizing of different political forces in the weeks ahead remains to be seen. But one thing remains clear: in Haiti's Senate at least, money talks.