There is a division between the locals and the diaspora

Stabroek News
January 5, 2016

Dear Editor,

There should be a poster at the Cheddi Jagan Airport which reads: "Diaspora not wanted in Guyana." I believe that not until the diaspora forms its own political party, will they have representation in the Guyana government. Despite the fact that every past and present government has encouraged the diaspora to return home and rebuild the country, none of them meant it. It was just a show.

Editor, let us be honest. The fact of the matter is that neither the Government of Guyana nor the people of Guyana want the diaspora to come back home. Why then have the previous and present governments continued to encourage the diaspora to return home if they don't really mean it? The truth is, it's a political game that the government plays and the diaspora falls for it every time because they like the feeling of being needed.

Like the previous government, the present government and people of our country only need three things from the diaspora: They want remittances, political donations and money for projects. That's it. End of the story. They don't want the diaspora's skills, knowledge, experience or expertise.

The reason for this is largely because of the country's historical struggles and experience. For example, some of the locals believe that the diaspora abandoned them by fleeing the country during the darkest moments of the locals' political struggles. As a result of this experience, some of the locals don't trust the diaspora. Also, some of the locals believe that the diaspora will always have an advantage over them because most of the latter have dual citizenship, and whenever things go from bad to worse, they can always leave and cannot be counted on to stay and struggle.

Additionally, since some members of the diaspora have dual citizenship, it creates a measure of jealously and envy between the two groups. Some of the locals envy the diaspora because they don't have the freedom to live in another country.

Moreover, both the government and some of the people of Guyana don't feel the same connection with them that they feel with the locals due to their shared struggles. Many locals feel that they are the ones who have been working in the trenches; fighting for autonomy, a country, governance and government; struggling to keep their jobs, feed their families and not be marginalised or ostracised by government officials from both parties; and now when the country is getting better, the diaspora wants to return home. The locals are saying no thank you. We would rather remain a developing country than accept your help. This is the most important issue facing Guyanese in relation to the country becoming better.

To some locals, the diaspora is less Guyanese and more foreigner. The locals like to say that you are from "outside" or "overseas," meaning, you're not 100 per cent Guyanese or not 100 per cent local. And to a certain degree, they're right. Because no one who has lived over ten years in America can say that they have not been somewhat Americanised, which is a good thing. It puts the person in a better position think outside of the box and help Guyana. The country needs more people who think outside the box for it to develop.

However, Editor, what some locals fail to realise is that they need the diaspora more than the diaspora needs them because an insufficient number of locals have the skills, experience, expertise or the knowledge to bring the country into the 21st century. The diaspora can always return to their country and live comfortably. Most of the diaspora really don't need Guyana to carve out a living; they are only trying to help make the country better.

It's my dream to see the locals and the diaspora work together to make the country the best in the region. But I don't think it'll happen in my lifetime. It'll take a new generation of young people who weren't a part of the division between the locals and the diaspora. As long as we're divided, the country will continue to struggle to develop. And as long as the diaspora doesn't create its own political party, it will always be treated like a second-class citizen and a foreigner.

Yours faithfully,

Anthony Pantlitz