BY ALICIA CRUZ
Wyclef Jean's bid for president of his homeland, Haiti, won't be supported by former band mate and friend, Prakazrel Samuel Michel, better known as Pras.
The Associated Press quoted the actor and film producer as saying that while he loves Jean "dearly," he does not "support his policies."
The Haitian American, who was born and raised in Brooklyn, said he believed Jean's opponent Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly, is better suited for the job.
"I endorse Michel Martell as the next president of Haiti because he is the most competent candidate for the job," Pras said in a statement. "Our beautiful homeland has experienced such devastation and I believe he is the only who can lead the country into a brighter future."
Actor Sean Penn reverberated Michel's sentiments during an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. Penn, who has been living in earthquake ravaged Port-au-Prince for a few months, said, "This is somebody who's going to receive an enormous amount of support from the United States, and I have to say I'm very suspicious of it, simply because he, as an ambassador at large, has been virtually silent. For those of us in Haiti, he has been a non-presence."
Not only has Penn accused Jean of being AWOL from his homeland, but he flat out accused Jean's organization, Yéle Haiti, of misappropriating approximately $400,000 of the $9 million the charity raised after the catastrophic earthquake in January. Tax returns for Yéle Haiti showed that some of the post-quake donations made to it went to Jean's Manhattan recording studio and his Haitian television production company.
However, Jean, who attended Vailsburg High School in Newark and has a home in Saddle River, told The News that he's learned from his mistakes and has changed Yéle's leadership and opened up its books. He directly responded to Penn's allegations on Thursday, saying "I just want Sean Penn to fully understand I am a Haitian, born in Haiti and I've been coming to my country ever since (I was) a child," The Associated Press reported.
While Michel's statements were not as scathing as Penn's, he did say he felt Jean lacks a "definitive plan to bring the island nation into the 21st century."
"You've got 1.2 million people living in tent city right now," said Pras. "What are the plans to get these people out?"
Pras also added that Jean uses a private jet for his frequent trips to Haiti and that he wonders why he doesn't take a commercial flight, since the money saved would help displaced families.
Interviews with Brooklyn Haitians Thursday show Jean, the nephew of Haitian ambassador to the United States Raymond Joseph, might have a tough road ahead of him, The New York Daily News reported.
Yvon Olivier of Flatbush told The News, "Wyclef is a musician. He's not fit for the job. It's like taking an engineer and putting him in a hospital," the 59-year-old manager of Chaco International Shipping said.
Though Jean is currently regarded as a front-runner in Haiti's Nov. 28 election, some fear the heavy scrutiny he has come under since announcing his presidential candidacy may hurt his chances of actually winning the election.
Jean's publicist, Leslie Chasky, did not immediately return a telephone call Friday night seeking a response to Pras' comments.