PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti, March 20, 2019 (CMC) – President, Jovenel Moise, says he will soon begin the process of selecting a new prime minister for the French-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country, even as Prime Minister, Jean-Henry Céant, says he does not recognise the decision, on Monday, to force him out of office, following an overwhelming vote in the Lower Chamber of Deputies.
“I inform you, that I will begin consultations with the Parliament, as soon as possible, on the selection of a new Prime Minister, in accordance with Article 137 of the 1987 Constitution, as amended,” Moise wrote, in a letter to the to the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Gary Bodeau.
Céant and his 21-member cabinet will remain in office, as caretakers, until a new prime minister is named.
Under Haitian law, a caretaker prime minister and government can only oversee the country’s day-to-day affairs, and cannot enter into any new contracts.
Céant, a lawyer, had replaced Jack Guy Lafontant, as prime minister, six months ago, following a series of street demonstrations over fuel increases.
But in recent weeks, President Moise has been under pressure, from opposition parties, to step down, over his handling of domestic affairs as well as the use of funds under PetroCaribe — an oil alliance of many Caribbean states, with Venezuela, to purchase oil, on conditions of preferential payment.
In his letter, President Moise acknowledged receiving the information regarding “the decision of the Chamber of Deputies, who dismissed Prime Minister, Jean Henry Céant, following a motion of censure, voted by the Assembly of Deputies, with ninety-three (93) votes “for”, six (6) “against” and three (3) “abstentions”.
But Prime Minister Céant, who was not present when the vote was taken, on Monday, has refused to accept the ruling, insisting that he is still heading a government in office.
He has described the vote as “illegal and unconstitutional”, saying it goes against the republican and parliamentary traditions, given that he was in the Senate, and had informed the President of the Chamber of Deputies of his unavailability.
The Senate, citing the recent arrest of five, armed Americans, last month, and their subsequent release, with the help of the US State Department, had summoned both Céant and his justice minister to its chamber, on Monday.
Senate President, Carl Murat Cantave, later tweeted that due to the lack of a quorum, the prime minister’s session was being rescheduled for Wednesday.
Céant said that he was going be present in the Senate, yesterday, and that he has been discussing with his team, the appropriate response to give the Chamber of Deputies.
Several Senators, including Youri Latortue, say they still regard Céant as prime minister and that the Senate takes precedence in this matter.
Several other legislators, including Sinal Bertrand, Printemps Bélizaire and Baudelaire Noelsaint, have denounced the vote of censure against Prime Minister Céant, which they described as illegal.
Last month, CARICOM leaders at their inter-sessional summit in St. Kitts-Nevis, “expressed deep concern about the situation, prevailing in Haiti, during the past three weeks, characterized by violent protests, jeopardizing the political, economic and social stability of the country”.
“Heads of Government call upon all stakeholders to prioritise dialogue, as a means to address, peacefully and meaningfully, all relevant issues, and to create the conditions for lasting political stability, essential to the sustainable economic and social development of Haiti,” the CARICOM Heads said.
The Guyana-based CARICOM Secretariat was expected to issue a statement, on Tuesday, on the latest developments in Haiti.