by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 28 Feb 2006)
In a letter to the editor of the Guyana Chronicle yesterday, concerned Guyanese Gilbert Campbell expressed his deep hurt over how Guyanese were being treated by its fellow Caribbean countries. Of course, there is reason for Mr. Campbell to be distressed over this situation because it hurts anytime someone feels rejected by another person.
However, as Mr. Campbell pointed out, there is one driving factor that causes some (definitely not all) in the Caribbean to fear Guyanese. My job is to offer an independent view to the pages of this paper - a perspective that is not swayed by entrenched political loyalties or by racial devotion.
I did not grow up under the PNC or PPP government and I am neither Afro-Guyanese nor Indo-Guyanese, which allows me to approach my writings from a perspective of putting the interests of the people before my fear of government reprisal or personal vendettas, since I do not have a long history of fear and/or hate of either of the two standing political parties.
Last year, when the issue of Guyanese being turned back from Barbados was at its height, I did not understand the reasoning behind such actions and decided to do some personal research into the situation. Since then I have read dozens of letters, columns and news articles from Barbados on this subject and have come to one conclusion – Barbadians fear that Guyana will bring its racial strife into their peaceful island.
This fear might be misplaced. However, it is certainly understandable since even Guyanese themselves do not want to live with the racial division that has caused the nation to virtually stand still in time – economically, socially and democratically. Certainly we can understand why these small islands that have recently found economic success are afraid of importing Guyana 's racial division.
In his letter, Mr. Campbell said, “The cause of all this is our divisive politics. We need desperately to have a national Guyanese government composed of Amerindian, Portuguese, Chinese, Afro- and Indo-Guyanese. After 40 years we should have learnt the lesson. We need a national government or we will become the footstools of all and everyone.”
I share Mr. Campbell's sentiment. When Guyana starts acting as one nation and one people, it will then be obvious to the rest of the world that Guyana also has one destiny. This is a crucial time for Guyana because it is of utmost importance to show the rest of the world that Guyanese can live together in harmony with each other – and with the rest of the world, especially if Guyana hopes to reap the full benefits of the new CSME.
From what I understand, Barbadians fear Guyanese for two primary reasons. The first one is the racial conflict, and the second being job security.
It seems Barbados has taken in a substantial amount of Guyanese immigrants for being a small island. I have read of protests that Guyanese are taking jobs that should be going to the native Bajans.
Again, this second reason is also understandable to a degree, yet it does not seem the government in Barbados views this as a real issue, because the hard-working Guyanese are taking jobs that many Bajans do not really want, such as positions in construction work.
In short, the real underlying problem is fear. When other islands read of the day-to-day issues between two racially divided political groups and hear of the violence that plagues Guyana – sometimes because of race and sometimes because of the ongoing crime that the government is unable to control – they fear Guyanese will bring this instability with them as they travel and migrate.
I am sure there are minute portions from these other islands that feel superior to Guyanese, but I truly do not believe it is the majority of the population. In fact, from what I can gather, most of these islands have as much respect and admiration for Guyanese as I do.
Which is why I cannot agree with one particular sentence in Mr. Campbell's letter that said, “But we are worth more than them! We are better and greater!” I certainly do not believe Guyanese are better or greater than others in the Caribbean, anymore than I believe others in the Caribbean are any better or greater than Guyanese. In fact, I believe it is this same arrogance that makes other nations so dislike the United States .
I am quite sure there will be some from Barbados and Trinidad who will read this letter from Mr. Campbell, especially since there are still some in the country for Mash. Can you imagine how it would make them feel when they read that someone from Guyana thinks he is worth more than them? I imagine that person would feel just like those Guyanese who were refused entry into Trinidad and Barbados – humiliated, victimised and dejected.
Now I know many are saying, “Good, let them get a taste of their own medicine!” Just as there were some who praised the Guyanese immigration officer who refused entry to a Barbadian man who was here to visit some friends at the start of this year. But an eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind, as Gandhi would say.
This is not a time to get mad over the understandable fear Guyana's neighbours have over its violence and racial politics when even Guyanese do not want to live with such things. Instead, it is time to take drastic steps to reshape Guyana 's image into one that does not produce fear. A good place to start would be by demanding a government that will stop crime and be racially inclusive.