Sunday, September 16, 2012

Forget the Haitian National Palace

Haitian National Palace
(Photo by John Carroll, September 15, 2012)

One of the most beautiful and elegant buildings in the Americas was destroyed in less than a minute on January 12, 2010. The Haitian earthquake crumpled the Haitian National Palace. The quake also destroyed almost all of the other Haitian ministry buildings in downtown Port-au-Prince.  

The Palace had been built using American engineers when the US occupied Haiti from 1915-1934.

This edifice was twice as large as our White House and it represented Haitian politics, ruthless dictators, and failed presidents. Many Haitians considered it a “den of corruption”.

Sean Penn and his charity recently volunteered to knock down the vestiges of the Palace. During the last several weeks Penn used 98% Haitian labor, some American engineers, and big Caterpillar equipment. The sagging cupulos and most of the building are now at gound level.  

The street in front of the Palace is blocked off to traffic and a green mesh has been placed interlacing through the fence surrounding the Palace. The final destruction of this edifice was shrouded by the mesh and semi-hidden from the public.

And now Haitian President Michael Martelly states that he does not know where the funding is going to come from to build a new Palace.

Why build a new Palace?

I can promise you that people are dying just a few blocks away for very stupid reasons. Watching sick three-year olds, thirteen-year olds, young men, and skeletalized old ladies gasping for their last few breaths is horrid. Are their lives not more important than another opulent political building?

Port-au-Prince is morass of misery and not fit for humans. The millions of dollars needed to reconstruct another Palace should be used instead to improve the basics that poor humans require to live with a little dignity. Millions of people in Port-au-Prince are living moment-to-moment, breath-to-breath.

Photo by John Carroll

President Martelly, forget the symbolism. Please attend to the living.

The Haitian National Palace is history. Let it be.  

John A. Carroll, MD

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Having been in and near Port aux Prince twice now doing humanitarian work, I totally agree with you. That said, the Haitian government needs to have someplace (doesn't have to be opulent at all, but functional) to meet and conduct business. I'm concerned, as I know you are, about the lack of infrastructure: clean water, sewers, garbage pick up, reliable electricity; as well as the basics like accessible basic education and health care for all. In order to move past the "applying bandages" (which are never enough)stage, the things I mentioned are necessities in preventing some of the problems that are so evident. My sense is that right now, many organizations are trying to provide in various of these areas, but there is no overarching organization - so there is duplication in some areas, and total lack in others. This is really the job of government, yet we don't trust the Haitian government because of so much corruption in the past. What's the answer? I wish someone knew! It's just so complex. But, certainly, building a replacement palace doesn't seem to be part of any answer that I can conceive of...