The winning ticket of the UHC election organised by PEC. From left: Secretary-elect Jimmy Jean-Louis, President-elect Jackson Dambreville, and Treasurer-elect Gregory Timot.
PHILIPSBURG–After some 377 votes were counted, presidential candidate Jackson Dambreville and his ticket emerged victorious in the United Haitian Community (UHC) Association election on Sunday that was organised by the Permanent Electoral Council (PEC).
The election was held under a “ticket system” in which the presidential candidates have running mates for the positions of secretary and treasurer.
Dambreville’s ticket garnered some 242 votes, followed by the ticket of candidate Kesner Pierre Louis with 90 votes. Some 39 persons voted for former UHC president Jestan Guerrier’s ticket. There were six invalid ballots.
The voting concluded at 6:00pm, and the candidates and their supporters settled in the halls of the Windward Islands Federation of Labour (WIFOL) building in Philipsburg to watch PEC officials count the votes. There were also some 20 persons standing in the building’s parking lot.
After some 45 minutes of counting, the crowd erupted in cheers and applause as Dambreville and running mates secretary-elect Jimmy Jean-Louis and treasurer-elect Gregory Timot were declared the winners.
With a Haitian flag draped around his shoulders, a jubilant Dambreville toured the room, receiving congratulations from supporters and concessions from the losing candidates.
“I’m excited,” Dambreville told The Daily Herald on Sunday night. “It has been a long time coming. It is a dream come true.”
UHC has been around since 1983 and, according to Dambreville, this is the first time it has elected a board of predominantly young professionals.
Dambreville and his ticket are all members of Le Sommet Foundation. According to its Facebook page, the foundation is “built on the focus of the wellbeing of the Haitian Community in St. Maarten” and aims to “not only help, but to uplift our people to put forth their full potential.”
Dambreville’s ticket was elected under the slogan, “Tan pou chanjman”, which is translated into English as “Time for change”.
“We need a voice. We need someone to represent us. And this is what we will do,” said Dambreville.
Despite Sunday’s result, UHC remains locked in a leadership crisis. PEC is one of two contesting groups that have held elections for the organisation’s president.
The other group – backed by former UHC president Lamicia Calicus – held an election at Bute Hotel on A.Th. Illidge Road on November 15 which saw bus driver and entrepreneur Castin Ironce defeat Calicus, who was running for re-election. About 80 of the country’s Haitian or Haitian-descent residents voted, according to some reports.
The group inaugurated Ironce in a ceremony at Bute Hotel on Sunday, November 23, as Calicus handed over the organisation’s reins. Joining Ironce’s board are secretary Alexis William and treasurer Isnock Polylinick.
PEC has questioned the legality of that election and Ironce’s subsequent inauguration, and has contacted legal counsel.
Although PEC organised the election that saw Calicus voted as the association’s president in 2015, she told this newspaper in March 2020 that PEC does not have authority to hold elections on behalf of UHC and that she would be preparing a “legitimate election”.
PEC holds itself as the only authority allowed to organise elections for Haitian community organisations, adding that it is not part of UHC.
When asked about this contending faction, Dambreville characterised its election as illegal.
“In anything you will always find a group that will be opposed to something. But that does not mean that we are divided. We proved it tonight, we are not divided,” he said. “The real election is what happened today [Sunday, November 29 – Ed.].”
“I am very happy with the turnout. It shows strength, it shows unity; contrary to what was spreading out there for the many weeks of the two different groups,” said Fabio Doralice, who is Dambreville’s pick for UHC vice president.
Doralice ran as the number 18 candidate on the National Alliance (NA) slate for this year’s parliamentary election.
“Tonight clearly shows that the masses are behind us and the mass clearly wants change, they clearly want a new direction. That is why they voted for the youth – because they see that our platform and what we are saying we want to do for the community, that we can achieve it,” he said.
The current controversy stems from the fact that former president Calicus allegedly refused to relinquish power at the end of her four-year term in November 2019. Five of the seven UHC board members signed a document dated December 23, 2019, which authorised the PEC to organise elections for the association’s board. However, the authorisation letter was not signed by Calicus and UHC secretary Jean Maisoneuve.
PEC originally wanted to hold an election for UHC’s board in April, but it had to be cancelled due to the government-imposed lockdown.