United States’ Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, says that Jamaica’s efforts will be pivotal to the recovery of Haiti, following the massive devastation caused by Tuesday’s earthquake.
Mrs. Clinton has also praised the Jamaican Government and people for the assistance given to Haiti following the massive earthquake, and has urged the Government to keep the lines of communications with the US administration opened as the initiative develops.
“She feels that Jamaica is pivotal to the overall recovery of Haiti, in terms of its strategic location and, ofcourse, the help we have offered so far,” Minister with responsibility of Information, Hon Daryl Vaz, said last night.
Mr. Vaz was speaking to members of the media at a press briefing following Mrs. Clinton’s brief stopover at the Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA) in Kingston last night, on her return trip to Washington after a fact-finding mission to Haiti.
The US Secretary of State felt it was important to visit Jamaica and hold discussions with Prime Minister Bruce Golding, Mr. Vaz said. Those discussions were held with the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Dr. Kenneth Baugh, in the VIP Lounge of the airport last night.
Mr. Vaz said that Mrs. Clinton felt that CARICOM will have to play a critical role in Haiti’s post-earthquake recovery and that Jamaica, being the hub of CARICOM’s Haiti earthquake relief and recovery efforts, would be central to its success.
The Minister noted that Mrs. Clinton met Haitian President, Rene Preval, and representatives of relief several agencies, in Haiti to strategise a cohesive relief response, but felt that there was a need to discuss issues with Mr. Golding on the developments.
He said that, in keeping with the local recovery efforts, she was very pleased to hear that a Canadian aircraft will be leaving Jamaica Sunday, with equipment needed by Digicel to get its network back up in Port-au-Prince. She recalled that President Preval had indicated to her that communications was the number one problem facing his Government, in co-ordinating its relief efforts..
“She has instructed that special clearance be given for that aircraft, based on the fact that a number of aircraft have been turned away from landing in Haiti because of the congestion. But, because of the critical need for telecommunications, she has undertaken to get that plane cleared to land there tomorrow (Sunday),” he noted.
Mr. Vaz also confirmed that Jamaica has offered to be used as holding areas both the Sangster and Norman Manley international airports, for planes that cannot land in Port-au-Prince because of air traffic congestion.
“Instead of returning to where they came from, or to find somewhere else….we will allow them to come here and hold until such time as they can get their clearance into Haiti,” he explained.
He said that Food for the Poor has also offered their compound in Haiti to the Jamaican contingent involved with the relief and recovery efforts. This will be a major boost for Jamaica’s efforts, as the site is only two miles from the airport and has equipment and vehicles vital for the purpose.
“That will mean that the soldiers will be based there along with the medical staff and all other volunteers and Jamaican agencies and personnel that may need to go there from time to time,” he stated.
Mrs. Clinton left the island feeling pleased that, based on her discussions in Haiti, as well as with Prime Minister Golding, things are coming together for the recovery effort in Haiti which has ben moving very slowly, he said.
Mr. Vaz described the discussions between Secretary Clinton and Prime Minister Golding as “very, very amicable.”
“She left here feeling good that, based on the discussions she had in Haiti and the discussions she had with Prime Minister Golding, there is some semblance of order and structure coming together for the recovery effort in Haiti,” he stated.