There is little doubt that post-independent Guyanese migration has been predominantly outward mainly to North America, Europe and within the Caribbean. I have satirically described this migration as now you see me and now you don’t.
Because of this clandestine movement, we do not know how many Guyanese have left for greener pastures. Nonetheless, unofficial reports indicate that there are about 500,000 Guyanese living abroad.
While Guyanese from all walks of life and region have left, Berbice has experienced a larger out-migration. The 2002 Population Census shows that all regions, except for Region Six, which is Berbice, have experienced a significant population growth after a drop between 1980 and 1991.
For instance, the population distribution of Region Four from 1980 to 2002 was as follows: 317,475 in 1980, 296,924 in 1991 and 310,320 in 2002. By contrast, the population in Region Six for the same period was 152,386 in 1980, 142,541 in 1991, and 123,695 in 2002.
The major challenge we face here is to explain why has there been a steady population decline in Berbice but generous growths in other regions in Guyana?
What is more puzzling and unsettling about this phenomenon is that Berbice has been the undisputed, dedicated stooge-like supporter of PPP administration.
Under normal circumstances, the reversed form of migration would have been the norm. If a region or a group voted for a political party to assume leadership, then out-migration would likely be modest.
This is simply logical and supports common sense. How are we to explain continuous out-migration from Berbice, whereby in some situations people pay as much as US$10,000 to take them out? This is an irony of ironies.
To be sure, population decline can be a result of more deaths and fewer births as well as migration. Nevertheless, both scenarios do not augur well for Berbice and the current government because they simply reveal negative realities of neglect and marginalisation. Migration is a rather complex and multi-faceted process that includes a range of international and national factors but revolves mainly around macro and micro theoretical explanations.
This is not the place to detail and debate these migration theories. However, in a nutshell, the macro theory approaches and explains migration as a product of uneven world socio-economic development.
The forces of capitalism penetrate into underdeveloped regions of the world and distort socio and economic relations, which in turn cause people to move.
Migration is a natural outgrowth of disruptions and dislocations as well as the structure of the world market system in the process of capitalist development.
The micro theory of migration focuses on the individual as an active agent in the desire to move as opposed to structural-historical factors described above.
Migrants take into consideration wages, destination and cost-benefit analysis of migration through a series of network linkages such as connections between potential migrants and their destination through information on jobs, life in the receiving countries, and modes of entry. Migrants are pushed out of their home environment because of a lack of opportunities for personal and family development and pulled by better prospects in the receiving territory.
Berbice migration has been pushed by individual choice because of disjunctive development in that region.
The PPP administration has taxed the will of Berbicians to a breaking point. Interestingly, thousands and thousands of Berbicians have opted to leave rather than to challenge the current administration to provide the basics for a better way of life.
The top export in Berbice is not sugar or rice but people, a majority being die-hard PPP supporters.
These secessionists rather support the PPP administration from the so-called comfort of exile either through real remittances or imaginative lip-service.
In fact, the current administration receives enormous support from overseas Guyanese, especially from those scarred and scared by the policies of the previous administration. But there must be more reasons as to why Berbicians support the PPP.
The answer seems to lie in works of the Jagans and their entourage. For over 50 years, the Jagans and their entourage bamboozled Indo-Berbicians into believing they would bring growth and development to them.
My father was one of them and his entire neighbourhood believed Dr. Cheddi Jagan could do no wrong. Dr. Jagan was to Berbice Indians like what President-elect Barrack Obama is now to African people or what Comrade President Fidel Castro is to Cuba. Berbice Indians saw and treated Dr. Jagan like their new Mahatma Gandhi.
Dr. Jagan was a living God to Berbice Indians in the same way the Rastafarians embrace Emperor Halie Selassie. That is why Berbice Indians voted overwhelmingly for the Jagans.
It was more sentimental than practical. Indians continue to vote for the PPP because of the failed policy of cooperative socialism not because of positive policies and values of the PPP.
Indians continue to vote for the PPP because they have been brainwashed; they have been deceived. One thing has changed, however, in the voting pattern of Indo-Berbicians. Historically, they voted directly for Dr. Jagan. Now they vote for the party.
The Jagans have not delivered anything of significance but their names to the people of Berbice. They never did, not in my lifetime or in my parents’ lifetime. They will certainly not in the lifetime of my children.
Dr. Jagan was more in isolation than in power most of his life. Yet, he and his party made continuous promises to Indians which were never met. The Jagans were able to use Indo-Berbicians for so long because Indians were/are desperate people living in desperate times led by desperate power seekers.
What a waste of humanity, and without a doubt, this is a national, incarnated sin of the PPP. How sad!
The original sin was when the colonial powers fixed colonial borders to suit their conveniences and left them in tact when they receded. The forced political marriage of Berbice with Demerara and Essequibo is a prime example.
So those who voted for the PPP and then left have seceded or separated with their feet.
But some clarifications ought to be made concerning this interesting phenomenon.
A secessionist is like a separatist or a refugee. Both share a common interest to escape from the political system or the parent state they find intolerable.
Both wish to sever ties with their parent state but they differ in their approach. The separatist wishes to leave the state physically while the secessionist seeks also to leave the state but mean to remain physically.
The separatist wishes to abandon the land while the secessionist abandons the state but takes part of the land or territory. Following this perspective, states prefer the separatists or refugees because it is more beneficial to them to have disgruntled supporters leave.
This is exactly how the PPP has treated out-migration in Berbice. This is exactly how the PPP has remained in office. Had there not been a safety valve (out-migration) for its now disloyal supporters, PPP would collapse overnight. Actually, the PPP has promoted out-migration by neglecting Berbice.
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