Hopefully the Myrie issue will be fully investigated and the matter put to bed, although we doubt it! It seems passing strange that Jamaica and Guyana should be the countries complaining about treatment meted out at our border. These two regional countries represent the largest land masses in the English speaking Caribbean. In a sensible world regional labour flows should be in the other direction. Not to forget St. Vincent which has also been making negative noises directed at Barbados. St. Vincent like Jamaica has become a major source of drugs entering Barbados.
It is worthy of discussion that both Jamaica and Guyana have resorted to exporting labour of late to the tiny islands of the Eastern Caribbean. It appears to be a consequence of the harsh economic times being experienced by the respective economies, or is it? Casual observation detects that a large body of unskilled labour has been entering Barbados from these two countries. The argument which is given by the apologists is that our agricultural sector has been the beneficiary of a Guyanese presence, so what it the point? The Barbados Workers Union has given its blessing to a registry or some enrolled system being implemented to regulate labour to this sector. The solution has always been a simple one!
In the case of Jamaica we could explain the apprehension demonstrated at our border by stating that there is probably no country in the world which does not feel and act similarly. We all know why. BU does not condone actions by our officials which would seek to dehumanize anyone. There is a legitimate reason for Barbadians to fear the consequences of an influx of Jamaicans into Barbados. Our court and prison are already providing ample evidence that we are correct in our fear. Also Barbadians have become very aware that our red light activity has become saturated by Jamaican and Guyanese personnel. Last week Barbados Police were involved in two major drug busts where Jamaicans and Guyanese figured prominently.
It was interesting to listen to Prime Minister Bruce Golding making the point last week that Jamaica has been the most welcoming of Caricom countries to Caricom nationals. He then made the other point that Barbados is a tiny island which can fit comfortably into the parish of St. Thomas or some other Jamaican parish. Sometimes one is left to wonder if these regional politicians are serious. It seems all of patriotic Jamaica has welcomed the opportunity to dump on Barbados last week. No doubt it will continue. Surprisingly we have had many Barbadians who have done the same. Mia Mottley will be remembered for leading the charge by being critical of Minister of Foreign Affairs Maxine McClean at the height of the impasse, Jamaicans have been using as a rallying cry against Barbados. Then again BU always knew our level of patriotism would run a distant second to Jamaica.
When we listen to some of the utterances coming out of Jamaica we forget that it was only a few months ago a section of downtown Kingston held that country under siege in a bloody battle which will be remembered for a long time. It was not the battle itself which rattled Barbadians but the fact ordinary Jamaican citizens in their numbers sided with Dudus Coke – a drug lord – against authority. The unrest was preceded by allegations which implicated the government in nefarious dealing with the underworld element. Barbados must continue to be vigilant about how it protects its border. It is because of how we have managed our society over the years that many have been running to Barbados to enjoy the peace and security of a stable society. People like Rickey Singh for example.
To those who question the bona fides of Barbados’ commitment to the regional integration cause they should wheel and come again. Was it Barbados who withdrew from the West Indies Federation? Is it Barbados who is delinquent in contributions to regional institutions like UWI for example? Is it Barbados who has refused to make the Caribbean Court of Justice its final court of appeal? Is it Barbados who is owed millions under the Caribbean Multilateral Facility? Barbados has always met its obligations under the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. The one issue which our detractors have sought to hold our feet to a fire is on the vexing and global issue of immigration.
Does it make sense that Jamaica and Guyana with a combined population of about 3.5 million, and a physical space of 80,000 square miles, should be rushing in numbers to emigrate to Barbados? We should add the two countries are blessed with natural resources. Despite the foregoing Barbados continues to meet its obligation under the treaty by allowing labour in the skill categories named in the CSME arrangement to work in Barbados, which is more than can be said for other Caricom members. Unregulated movement proposed by some makes for an amusing and duncey story if examined with commonsense. How can Barbados an island of 166 square miles open its borders to all and sundry simply because of some dream? Shouldn’t the realities of doing so help to guide our decision making? We have other small islands in the region like Antigua sinking under the weight of the immigration matter. Should Barbados remain hitched to a position where there is sufficient evidence to show that flex is required in decisions previously made? The fact that Barbados should be cautious on the issue of immigration does not mean we are xenophobic. It seems this is the label which is easily ascribed because Barbadians who live on a 166 square mile rock are saying hold on, let us have a rethink here.
Perhaps the time has come for Barbados to examine its options. Should we seek membership in the OECS? Should we follow the path of the Bahamas and annex to a developed country? What is evident is that the regional integration movement which should be helping Barbados to grow is doing the opposite.