Dec 02, 2020 Letters
A few days ago Kaieteur News published a letter in which the writer called upon the churches to speak up against injustices and abuse of human rights. For too long, the “Men of the Cloth” have remained silent or have turned a blind eye while the rights of the poor in Guyana and their neighbours in the Caribbean are being violated. If there is a single group that should not be afraid to address the injustices meted out to the poor and the powerless in Guyana and elsewhere is the Church. Recently, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) deported 160 hapless and desperate Venezuelans, mostly children who sought refuge in that country after fleeing their homeland for a better life. Not a word from the leaders of the church in Guyana, the Caribbean and elsewhere.
However, many in the public believed that the decision by the government of Trinidad and Tobago was wicked, cruel and heartless. Almost everyone is aware of the turmoil in Venezuela and if nothing else, they should at least extend a helping hand to those less fortunate Venezuelans who are fleeing large-scale poverty and political persecution in their homeland. But to its credit, Guyana has been accommodating to some of the Venezuelans but not to the Haitians who like so many other nationals from around the world are fleeing economic hardships with the hope of finding solace or some kind of relief in another country, in this case Guyana. Over the years, many Haitians who have entered Guyana have been harassed and humiliated by governments past and present and some have been arrested and even jailed for overstaying their time in Guyana. And while the United States, especially the Trump administration has penalized/imprisoned refugees, it is wrong for Guyana to do so to our brethren from Haiti.
Recently, multiple media sources in Guyana have reported that at least 23 Haitians who came to Guyana in early November to seek a better life have been detained by the police and are asking the High Court to order their release from police custody. The only crime, which they have committed is to seek help in Guyana—a sister CARICOM state. According to the President of the Association of Haitian Nationals in Guyana, Kesnel Toussaint, the Haitians are being detained at a Rehabilitation Centre at Onverwagt, West Coast Berbice without adequate food, water and basic human amenities and without interpreters. And many are separated from their children. As if this was not embarrassing enough, the government has stated that it intends to impose visa restrictions on Haitians entering Guyana, which, according to some legal experts, is a violation of the CARICOM Treaty. The Treaty provides for freedom of travel of Caribbean nationals in the region. Moreover, no reasonable, rational or sensible government in the Caribbean would act so callously as to mistreat an oppressed group from Haiti, given the fact that they are fully aware of the difficulties faced by the Haitians in their homeland since the recent earthquake. Many believe that such action by the government is immoral and cold-blooded. This is true of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago. Others have recalled that there was a time not too long ago when thousands of Guyanese fled Guyana due to extreme hardships for greener pastures in the Caribbean, North America and elsewhere. And most if not all were well received.
Guyanese are a God-fearing people and the Scripture tells us that all religion, be it Christians, Hindus or Muslims should consider the interest of others and extend a helping hand to the less fortunate and those in need. The Bible teaches us that those who do righteous things are doing God’s will by bringing happiness and blessings to the poor and helpless for everyone needs a little help sometimes. One major theme that has been repeated throughout the Bible is God’s care and love for the poor and oppressed. The book of Proverbs 14:31 tells us that “whoever oppresses the poor insults his/her Maker, but he/she who is generous to the needy honours the Almighty.” And in Psalm 106:3: Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times! The Scripture also tells us after all, no one is meant to go through life alone. Therefore, it is important for us as Guyanese to help those who are going through tough times like the Haitians.
In light of the above, we are calling on the churches, especially the Men of the Cloth to provide help and support to the less fortunate Haitians at our doorsteps. And the government must be reminded that Haiti is a member State of CARICOM and its citizens should be treated no different from the others. If we are truly our brothers and sisters’ keeper, then we as Guyanese should be kind to the Haitians at our doorsteps and not mistreat them.
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