OUR CARIBBEAN: Search for solution after ‘horror’ story
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Maxine McClean and her Jamaican counterpart Dr Ken Baugh were scheduled to discuss between yesterday and today the raging controversy over the widely reported alleged finger-raping of a 22-year-old Jamaican woman, Shanique Myrie, by an Immigration officer.
The ministers’ face-to-face on the highly sensitive allegation, currently exacerbating bi-lateral relations, was expected to occur on the margins of the two-day conference of the Council of Ministers of the CARIFORUM Group of countries (CARICOM plus Dominican Republic) that started yesterday in Belize.
However, readers should not hold their breath for any definitive political outcome from that ministerial discussion as the swelling controversy now seems heading for the court (possibly in both Kingston and Bridgetown), as well as likely involvement at Heads of Government level to ease tension in favour of a credible independent probe.
This much seems evident from the contention by Jamaica’s Public Defender Earl Witter, that McClean may have been “reckless” in her initial response to Myrie’s report when she chose to dismiss it as “absolutely no truth”, in the face of the victim’s published graphic recollections of her humiliating, degrading experience at Grantley Adams International Airport as a first-time visitor.
The bizarre development, over which local officialdom and sections of the Barbados media appeared to be in a denial mode for the first two days of the breaking of Myrie’s story in the Jamaica Observer, has since attracted region-wide media coverage, with the Nation newspapers being much more forthcoming.
Even, that is, as non-government organizations in Barbados, including that which represents women in particular, were – at the time of writing – still holding their silence on a matter that should be of deep concern to all governments, regional institutions, agencies and groups truly interested in avoiding such demeaning treatment, as reported by Myrie, of ANY foreign national on arrival at ports of entry in this or other CARICOM states.
The traumatized Myrie, with whom this columnist spoke during the week, as well as her lawyer, former Foreign Minister Anthony Hylton, may well have done all CARICOM citizens a favour by going public with her experience; filing written complaints and open to be interviewed by Jamaica’s Public Defender.
This contrasts with numerous allegations by other claimed victims of humiliating treatment, arbitrary detention and deportation from, for instance, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and Antigua and Barbuda, who are generally short on specifics for the record, fearing denial of re-entry.
Truth is, contrary to the falsehood being encouraged about the citizens of any one CARICOM state being “exceptional” within our Community, we are all the same, in many ways, with laudable qualities and distressing weaknesses. That’s why free intra-regional movement by nationals of the region should not be treated as a grudging “concession” on the part of ANY Caribbean Community country that is a signatory to the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.
The treaty provides the legal basis for the CARICOM Single Market and Economy, consistent with the letter and spirit of membership of a “Community of sovereign states”, that is, irrespective of nationality, ethnicity, social class or religion. Therefore, those who, on the contrary, so often misuse the media to spread propaganda and prejudices are contributing to the kind of human degradation so bitterly and openly complained about by the Jamaican national.