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– government persecution of Haitians must stop
We must speak fearlessly. We want the level-minded people in society, the law-abiding people in society, the decent people in society to speak out when there are violations in society, for it comes back to what we say “a threat to one is a threat to all.” Africans must not be scared to stand up and speak out when they see issues that reek of racial discrimination because if we do not speak for ourselves who will speak for us. We must speak out when things bother us, when we feel discomfort, when things affect us because they impact us negatively as a people. Every case must be taken at its merit.
Today the Government of Guyana has moved to corral Haitians and threatened to place them on flights back to Haiti under the pretext that they are protecting them from human trafficking. This is disguised discrimination pretending to care. Haitians are victims of closet discrimination because of their ethnicity.
Haitians are our Caribbean brothers and sisters. We share a closer bond with our Caribbean neighbours more than our motherlands, because in addition to ethnicity the common bond we face is slavery and indentureship. We in Guyana, we in the Caribbean region, are descendants of and have been shaped by these two exploitative systems.
The mistreatment of Haitians by the Government that comprises persons whose forebears came to these shores as slaves and indentured servants is shameful. It also reeks of double standards and exposes their tendency to treat others in a manner they would not accept even when they have erred.
In 2009 when the David Thompson government of Barbados was moving to enforce its immigration laws, a People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) government was in office. That government felt the enforcement of a member-state’s policy and laws could have negatively impacted Guyanese, particularly those whom they perceived as their supporters and were residing in Barbados undocumented (illegally).
Kaieteur News (KN) of 13th June 2009 reminds us that “President Jagdeo [stood] ready to defend Guyanese in Barbados.” These were his words as reported by that newspaper-
“We recognised that clearly there are going to be some pressures on social services, but some countries gain from the capital that they (undocumented immigrants) export and from goods exported to our countries. The countries benefit from large sums of monies being repatriated; huge balance of trade deficits in their favour, so I think that there is a need to examine the whole integration movement in its totality.”
In his acknowledgment of the presence of undocumented Guyanese in Barbados he pointed to an approach his administration took with undocumented Brazilians in Guyana. As reported by KN he said -“this is a ‘little troublesome matter’ when it comes to people who are undocumented or illegal in a country [and] that Guyana has had calls to go after some of the Brazilians in Guyana, but we have taken a ‘little different’ approach.” The then Head of State and Government went further by stating clearly “that he is not going to standby, regardless, and watch Guyanese being treated unfairly anywhere without speaking up for them.”
The Government of Haiti may not be making those arguments, or we may not be privy if such are being done, but those arguments made by the PPP/C government are applicable for Haitians. We too must not stand by, regardless, and watch Haitians being treated unfairly without speaking up for them. English is not their first language and they may not be fully aware of our legal system but these that are presently being corralled have not broken the law. As Jagdeo did for Brazilians, Haitians are no less deserving of humane treatment.
The constant persecution of Haitians must stop. The party that was in government in 2009 who communicated and executed its stance against another country (Barbados) they considered was violating the rights of Guyanese is in government today. This call is being made to President Irfaan Ali to respect Guyana laws- and the Caribbean Single Market Economy (CSME)- which have not been violated by the Haitians.
I remind readers the illustrious Guyanese international public servant, Sir Shridath Ramphal, had spoken out on David Thompson’s immigration policy. It was he who said – “It was sad that the Caribbean was experiencing a period when both policies and practices are deepening divisions and he cautioned that `we forget our oneness at our peril.’” Those were his words in 2009. In 2020 I would like to hear Ramphal’s opinion about the persecution of Haitians by the Government of Guyana.