WASHINGTON - Assistant Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) and Chair of the Group of Friends of Haiti, Albert R. Ramdin, is calling on the international community to do more to address the short-term and immediate needs of the Haitian people as presidential and legislative elections draw near. The high ranking OAS official has also reaffirmed his conviction that free and fair elections can and should take place as planned.
Highlighting the sensitive security situation in the country and current efforts to contain the cholera outbreak, Ramdin said it was clear that the "short-term and immediate needs of the Haitian people are great.”
“There is a sense on the part of Haitian authorities, the principle candidates for the Presidency, the people of Haiti, and certainly the OAS and the international community that, in the interest of Haiti, elections can and should take place as planned.” Ramdin acknowledged that the circumstances were not ideal, but maintained the elections would provide a framework for political certainty, and long term planning needed for the reconstruction of the country. "I have personally witnessed how comitted the Haitian people are to democracy and I hope that those who are eligible to vote will come out en masse to choose their new leaders”.
The OAS official also urged all political leaders participating in the elections, to use the last days of the Presidential campaign to call for peaceful elections. "Haiti needs a constitutionally elected President and parliament to be able to work in an inclusive manner to tackle the many problems following the earthquake.”
Ramdin, the second in command at the OAS, is also traveling to Haiti on Thursday to lend support to the work of the OAS/CARICOM Joint Electoral Observation Mission (jEOM). The last group of electoral observers arrived in the Caribbean nation this week. Approximately 120 observers are scheduled to visit a total of 4,500 polling sites in approximately 600 polling centers.
Assistant Secretary General Ramdin says election results should be tabulated between November 28th and December 6th, and any challenges must be submitted by December 8th, 2010. Preliminary results are expected on December 7, 2010, and following any challenges or recounts, the final results of the first round are expected to be announced on or around December 20, 2010.
Meanwhile, Manager of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Emergency Operations Center, Dr Robert Lee, gave an update on the cholera situation in Haiti. “We believe that certain critical issues need to be addressed if our efforts to treat patients and save lives are to be successful,” Lee said, indicating that safe water and sanitation are lacking and that short-term efforts should focus on the distribution of chlorine tablets to “virtually every household in the country.” On the other hand, he said, long-term efforts must be directed at creating “the systems and infrastructure to ensure equitable access to basic services of which safe water and sanitation are paramount in the context of cholera.”
Ambassador Duly Brutus, Permanent Representative of Haiti to the OAS, thanked the OAS for its on-going efforts in Haiti, and PAHO for its efforts in helping to control an outbreak of a disease until now, unknown in his country. “We don’t have experience in dealing with this disease,” he said. Regarding the election, the Haitian representative said government authorities and the Haitian people are ready for the elections of November 28th, and he predicted significant voter turnout surpassing fifty percent of voters. “People are motivated to vote,” he said.