The abuse has to be stopped Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
March 18, 2002

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THE recent reported assault on Guyanese-born Mr. Colin Gaul on a BWIA flight in Barbados has once more brought into sharp focus the unacceptable attitude of some officials in other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries towards Guyanese travellers.

Guyanese who have had bad experiences travelling in the Caribbean have been expressing their outrage at this latest incident through letters in the press and the Guyana Government and some organisations have registered their concern in separate statements.

The regional carrier BWIA, finding itself at the centre of this latest storm, attempted damage control by dispatching two top officials here last week to brief the media on their side of the story.

It refused to acknowledge that Mr. Gaul was assaulted on its aircraft in Barbados and said it did no wrong, and did not have to apologise for evicting the Swedish citizen from the plane.

They sought to give credit to their case by describing Mr. Gaul as an abusive passenger who exhibited disorderly conduct on the way from London to Barbados.

The Guyana Foreign Ministry is investigating the reported abuse of Mr. Gaul but the case is only part of a much bigger and disturbing picture - a point that the BWIA top executives seemed to have ignored in their damage control thrust over the Gaul incident.

From all accounts, the treatment of Mr. Gaul followed a pattern officials in Barbados and some other Caribbean countries seemed to have adopted towards Guyanese travellers and this is the larger issue that has to be addressed by the Guyana Government and CARICOM authorities.

The persistence of this state of affairs makes a cruel mockery of all the talk and push towards the free movement of CARICOM citizens in member states of the regional grouping.

Foreign Minister, Mr. Rudy Insanally has noted that airlines must preserve the balance between passenger rights and their security measures.

But Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon is certain that issues such as these highlight the position that the administration has taken at several important CARICOM fora about the despicable treatment Guyanese receive from their "CARICOM brethren" when travelling.

"This certainly further confirms to the Guyanese community, both inside Guyana and outside of Guyana, that there seems to be something out there that makes Guyanese a peculiar victim of the immigration and law enforcement agencies in our sister CARICOM countries", he said last week.

"And although we have been advised that many times errant Guyanese contribute to this outcome, still in instances such as Gaul, it does appear unreasonable", Dr. Luncheon told reporters.

He indicated that the Guyana Government intends to keep on making representation, specifically with regards to each outrage and said "we will continue the matter on the agenda at the CARICOM Foreign Ministers Meeting and at the CARICOM Heads of Government meeting".

This is certainly one way to go but we feel the fight for an end to the "intolerable abuse" and "despicable treatment" of Guyanese travellers in the region has to be also taken up by civil society.

An effective lobby should be started to end this disgraceful state of affairs.