It is Haiti's most powerful and recognizable symbol -- the very embodiment of Haitian identity. Now the National Palace, almost toppled in the cataclysmic January 2010 earthquake, is about to come down.
"When I took office, I said that rebuilding the palace was not a priority for me," President Michel Martelly said Wednesday in a ceremony on the palace's once-manicured grounds in Port-au-Prince. "Time has now come to take a look at buildings that were destroyed in the quake and that embody our national pride and our will as a people to always keep our head held high."
The palace, a once magnificent white concrete structure with columns and imposing domes, has long been the most powerful symbol of the Haitian state and presidency. But while Haitians agree that the palace is iconic, many are questioning why the demolition is being done by a foreigner, namely, actor Sean Penn through his charity organization J/P HRO.
Haitians have taken to the radio and social media. While some argue that as a measure of national pride, Haiti should shoulder the responsibility of demolishing and rebuilding its own palace, others say Penn's involvement simply solidifies what many believe -- that the country is incapable of addressing even its most basic needs.
"Sean Penn tearing down the National Palace is a reflection of Haiti's vanishing sovereignty," said Daly Valet, editor of Le Matin newspaper.