By Oscar Ramjeet
Guyana, the only English-speaking country in South America celebrates its 43rd anniversary of independence from Britain, today.
The country with its 83,000 square miles and endless resources in diamond, gold, bauxite, sugar, rice, rum, and timber, was at one time the home of thousands of Caribbean nationals.
It now finds itself at the bottom of the economic ladder in the region, and its nationals are being harassed and treated as second class citizens in the region.
It bleeds my heart that the citizens of a country which was once regarded as the bread basket of the Caribbean are being harassed in several Caribbean countries.
Barbados’s Prime Minister has announced that undocumented Caribbean nationals (who are mainly Guyanese and Vincentians) who have lived on that island for less than eleven years will be kicked out of the country at year end, regardless if they have children, girl friends or other ties.
The Guyana Consul in Bridgetown reported that Guyanese, mainly Indo-Guyanese, are being hounded down in their homes, by Immigration and Police Officers although the deadline for their departure is year end.
It is not only Barbados where this type of treatment is being meted out to Guyanese who seek a better life abroad because of the hardship they encounter in the land of their birth; because of the destruction caused by the politicians started by Forbes Burnham who, with the concurrence of his rival, Cheddi Jagan, nationalised the bauxite and sugar industries, but the Guyana Government was unable to properly administer these two major industries, and sustain the markets. As a result the economy started to do downhill.
Burnham then started to implement “belt tightening measures” by banning basic food items such as flour, peas, canned fish, meats etc, not to mention the serious restriction of foreign exchange which led to mass migration mainly to the United States, Canada and the Caribbean..
The countries to which the Guyanese migrated gained tremendously, because the highly qualified and skilful ones left and now play important roles in their adopted countries.
The less qualified ones, but by no means semi-literate ones, can match or are even more equipped than their Caribbean counterparts as mechanics, construction and other blue collar workers.
They are being harassed in Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda and even other OECS states.
Errol Ross, Guyana’s Honorary Consul in Port of Spain, said that Guyanese are being humiliated, some sexually, by Trinidad businessmen, and he has a list of those who indulge in these brutal activities.
Some of them are being investigated by the police. He said that only last week two Guyanese construction workers were brutally murdered and their bodies thrown in a dump in Chaguanas, Central Trinidad.
Ross has issued a statement that Guyanese should consult with him before they seek employment in the twin-island Republic.
Reports from St. John’s stated that Guyanese are being picked up in the middle of the night and being deported from Antigua, women are taken from their from their homes in their night dresses.
A few days ago, they deported a Guyanese woman, who was eight months’ pregnant. Incidentally “deportation” is not a legal process. It is simply police action without due process.
I am grieved about the situation because Guyana has done so much for Caribbean nationals.
It offered free education at the University of Guyana and one of them from St. Vincent and the Grenadines who has benefited from free university education and hospitality from Guyanese, is now “running down Guyanese” – biting the hand that fed him.
And speaking about Vincentians, Forbes Burnham authorised the Guyana Government to pay the salaries of Vincentians for two months while the Milton Cato administration was experiencing serious financial problems.
That’s history. We now speak of Caribbean Unity – CSME – Caricom, but there is no genuine approach for “togetherness”…People see themselves as Bajans, Antiguans, Jamaicans, Trinidadians etc and they do not want to unite.
All the leaders want to be Prime Ministers. All the “small islands”, with populations less than 150,000 – some as small as 50,000 (the population of a village or a big high rise complex), have their own missions in Washington, New York, London, Ottawa etc. Is there need for that?
It’s a waste of taxpayers’ money, but of course they want jobs for the boys and they want to be called “Your Excellency”
Guyana is a huge country and if the region is thinking in terms of real development and a united effort, the entire Caribbean from Haiti to Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, can all be accommodated in Guyana which has tremendous resources and is grossly under-populated with less than 750,000 while Barbados with only 166 square miles has 300,000 inhabitants.
What has independence has done for us? I was severely criticised for saying it has done more harm than good, the main reason is that the leaders, both from the People’s National Congress and the People’s Progressive Party did not play their cards correctly.
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