ON REFLECTION – Let Caribbean probe Myrie case
WHILE I’M AWARE Jamaica and Barbados have long held a strong familial bond that stretches across political, musical, cricket, ethnic and other circles, the matter of the alleged cavity search and finger-rape should be treated as far more than just another spat.
In fact, to refer to it as a mere family squabble, even in jest, is to run the risk of offending those at the centre of this controversy, which has been intensifying with every emotional utterance. For Shanique Myrie could well be the victim of a serious and degrading sexual offence while the officer(s) who dealt with her upon entry at Grantley Adams International Airport on March 14 could be the victim(s) of a damaging lie whose implications for this country and its travelling citizens may stretch far into the future.
That is why I must agree with the idea of an independent investigation, called for by Caribbean security expert Dr Ivelaw Griffith. However, I also feel constrained to ask why the investigating officials would have to come from Britain or Canada while we have an abundance of brilliant legal minds right here in the region.
Why Scotland Yard or the Canadian Royal Mounted Police – both eminent investigating entities, admittedly – when some governments and citizens across this region have begun to see the Caribbean Court of Justice as the ultimate example of us former colonized people being able to judge – and investigate – ourselves?
In fact, I am amazed that while the Shanique Myrie issue of alleged finger-rape has been ongoing for over a week, the silence of well known and passionate proponents of the CCJ is absolutely deafening; unless no one else is seeing the correlation.
Maybe I should understand the silence of Jamaica, whose Prime Minister Bruce Golding clearly has no affinity for the CCJ and has in fact publicly proclaimed an initiative for Jamaica to replace London’s Privy Council with its own final court of appeal.
Against the knowledge that countries like Jamaica and Trinidad seem to have more confidence in the integrity of the British law lords than in the wealth of legal talent in the region, it should therefore be no surprise that Dr Griffith, described as one of the Caribbean’s foremost experts on security, proposed non-Caribbean investigators; for the key, at the end of the day, is respect.
Griffith has called for the independent and neutral investigation so that Jamaicans would not have to be judging Barbadians or vice versa in this mutual incident, and so that long held biases would not come into play.
The foremost intention by Jamaica and Barbados at the governmental level should be to rescue their relationship and reputations, especially among our CARICOM brothers and sisters who are looking on.
It would therefore be more prudent at this time to have this case investigated by experts from within this region, probably led by Griffith who almost daily advises national and international agencies on Caribbean security issues. Is it far-fetched to have a team of investigators from Guyana and Belize, or a combination of some of the best sleuths from across the English-speaking Caribbean?
Furthermore, having Caribbean investigators would immediately avail us of people who understand the issues common to our region and our ports of entry, as well as our knowledge of each other’s economic situations, our hospitality, and the importance of tourism.
The Myrie issue has to be investigated sensitively; and I do not believe Scotland Yard or the Mounties can bring that kind of understanding and sensitivity to a case involving Caribbean neighbours.
In fact, this is an opportune time to test whether we are truly ready for a Caribbean-based judiciary, not only as a final appellate entity but also as a base for other aspects of arbitration, including criminal investigation and law enforcement.
And while an investigation has to be done as quickly and effectively as possible, this case should not just be thrown to places like Britain and North America where immigration policies and treatment of visitors at ports of entry are often worse than ours.
Sensitivity must be the key at every step of the Myrie case because a lot of emotion has been brought to bear on it, resulting in behaviour that can only be described as “wild” in both Jamaica and Barbados.
First, the Jamaica Observer reported the incident not as an allegation from the mouth of one person with no corroborating witness, but as if it had indeed happened; while Minister of Foreign Affairs Maxine McClean dismissed the allegation outright even before a full investigation was launched.
Both sides, the media and the ministry, would have been understandably enraged, but, thankfully, our minister quickly came back with a more well thought out comment, admitting basically that Myrie’s allegation should indeed be taken seriously until its veracity is proven.
Let’s hope therefore that some calm can soon be brought about with an efficient investigation by neutral Caribbean brothers, and the matter soothed at monthend with the collaboration of Barbadian artistes and influential Jamaican bards like Beenie Man, Sizzla, Barrington Levy and Queen Ifrica at the Barbados Reggae Festival – an arena where our family atmosphere truly prevails.