This is my second contribution today.
This is my second contribution today. The previous one was so long that I thought I'd separate it from this one. What follows is the story of a totally unpredictable and extraordinary day. I'll try to do it justice.
I received a word the the Prime Minister of Haiti, M. Laurent Lamothe, would like to see me. It came out of the blue and we decided to cancel a proposed visit to the provinces in order to agree to the Prime Minister's request. So I sat waiting for his car to arrive. In due course, it came a smoked glass affair with a senior civil servant and the head of the Prime Minister's protocol department sitting inside with the driver. I got in and we drove down to town.
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The car sped through crowded streets and ended up in the building that used to be the American Embassy. We we're allowed through heavily guarded gates and I was led into a building and an upstairs, air-conditioned waiting room. A few minutes later I was joined by the Haitian Foreign Minister, the Minister for Trade and Industry, and the Head of Operations in the Prime Minister's office. We had a good and detailed discussion about a range of subjects within their competence but I still had no real idea why I was there. Each of my three interlocutors was armed with a plastic-covered folder with briefing notes that we're clearly about me. Each of them, from time to time, took furtive looks inside no doubt to help them think of the next thing to talk about. At one point, one of them yelped. "So you're a partner in Goldman Sachs," he cried. I knew at once what had happened. In using the internet to get my details, they had got the wrong Lord Griffiths. the one whose curriculum vitae they we're looking at was Brian Griffiths, Lord Griffiths of Forestfach, a financial guru under Mrs Thatcher. I explained there were, indeed, two Lord Griffithses, one rich and the other poor and that I hoped it would not be too disappointing to the Republic to inform them that I was the impoverished one. We laughed. And a flunkey came in to tell us that the Prime Minister would receive me now. We all made our way to his office.
I accompanied him to the Chamber of Deputies, was introduced to the President of the Chamber and many other members of the lower House. Then The Prime Minister and the President of the Chamber made short speeches in which they promised to do better in the future for a more effective relationship between the legislature and the executive. Then the Prime Minister invited me to speak. No notice, crowded room, heightened expectations, and me the only non-Haitian in the place. I did my best.
Then we moved out of that room and along a corridor into the Senate. There I was introduced to the President of the Senate, a lovely man from a picturesque and iconic part of Haiti, who exuded good heartedness. Once again, the room filled up. I met ambassadors, senators, deputies, flunkies, soldiers and so many more. Here, as at every turn, we we're faced by a veritable embankment of photographers and cameramen. No speech this time but, just as I thought things we're cooling down, in came the President of the Republic, Michel Martelly. He embraced me warmly and, when he'd glad-handed innumerable people and exchanged jokes and banter with them, he turned to me and, in the middle of a crowded room, gave me his undivided attention for five or six minutes. We talked about his plans; I expressed my fears; we we're open and frank with each other. It was amazing.
The foreign Minister had, at one point, asked me to let him know if I need a letter or a certificate or an authority from him that would give added weight to the work I try to do for Haiti. I thanked him but demurred. I said that I wanted no post, no official role. I was just a friend of Haiti. Friends are not tied by protocols or letters of authority. Friends rove around as they will. They can speak where they like and to whom they like. They can be frank without it being thought subversive. That was my place and I hoped the Foreign Minister would understand. He nodded his agreement. In fact, I feel a little bit fatherly to the President and the Prime Minister. They are not perfect specimens but I feel they are the very men we must back just now and that's exactly what I told them.
What I'd thought would be half an hour turned out to be nearly three hours. Everyone else was Haitian but my place wasn't questioned nor did I feel any criticism. I stepped back into the dark-windowed limousine and we sped dangerously back up the hill to our hotel. Photographs will come, I was told. The siren screamed, our driver wove his way at speed through continuous lines of traffic. I gripped the back of the seat in front of me. When we finally reached the hotel, I thanked the driver for his skill and added, simply, "I'm breathing but I'm not sure whether I'm alive." We all laughed again and thus ended a fascinating middle of the day.
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Posted in Law Post Date 01/12/2019