It's time that something be done to stop harassment of Guyanese
March 18, 2002
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To say that I was appalled to hear about the BWIA/ Barbados Police incident, involving Guyana-born, Swedish national, Colin Gaul, two Saturdays ago, is to put it mildly.
Based on media reports of this most recent harassment of a Guyanese passenger and his three year old son, I feel that it is high time something radical be done to deal with this problem.
While it was good hearing Cabinet Secretary Roger Luncheon responding in a very balanced way (GC March 15), I think it is high time our leaders (political and business) move beyond the nice platitudes. First of all, the Guyana government should withdraw from Caricom pronto.
This would demonstrate how seriously we are prepared to deal with all the years of harassment our nationals have had to endure from our Caricom (brothers and sisters?).
What have we to lose? Caribbean Integration will always remain a pipe dream. What free movement of skills and capital? Ask Shridath Ramphal or Francis Quamina Farrier (the latter will give you a legion of his experiences both as Guyanese and a regional and international passenger).
Better yet, ask the two Bajan journalists in Antigua, Julian Rogers and his pal.
Secondly, our Government should immediately start courting another airline to ply the Guyana/North America leg and the Guyana regional routes and give BWIA the boot. And to know that BWIA had the gall to apply for national flag carrier status!
Thirdly, if Mr. Gaul, has the time and energy, he should contact all those Guyanese who've had bad experiences with BWIA and file a class action against the airline for discrimination and psychological abuse.
As for those Bajans, Antiguans, St Lucians, Anguillans and Trinidadian Immigration officials, what goes around, comes around. (Re-member when Guyana opened its arms in the 1940s and 50s to the region?) Mr. Minister of Tourism, I don't know what our tourists' arrival figures are like or how many hotel beds we have, but it would be worth the while to engage American Air-lines, or even the American Eagle officials in talks to start servicing Guyana and send BWIA packing!
If Gaul was afforded the simple courtesies he had asked for, I'm sure the incident would not have degenerated to that level. And to Mr. Gouveia, answer me this: since when can a father's concern for his sick three year old be considered a security risk?
I have seen passengers, specifically drunken tourists, removed from aircraft and oh boy, the local cops treated them with kid gloves.
The saddest part of this whole debacle is that, (outside of September 11 and the resulting security concerns) if Gaul were a Caucasian, would the flight captain have asked him to leave the aircraft.