Aug 06, 2019  Features / ColumnistsFreddie Kissoon

I was truly disgusted to the core of my soul when I read the commentary that Guyana should be careful in allowing in people from other countries. This was in reference to poorer souls from our neighbouring countries looking for life’s happiness for themselves and their families.
My disgust was combined with anger when I read the negative sentiments that they are coming to take “our economic greatness” and since they do not speak English and are not from our culture, they will contaminate it.
My vehement and emotional objection was two-fold. Such perverse thoughts should never come from the pen and lips of a Guyanese. We are a wandering people, journeying to all parts of the world in search of that very happiness. We have taken winged impulse since the fifties. PNC government or PPP government, the journey has never stopped. A Guyanese should never frown on poorer souls coming to this country to start a better life.
My second reason is philosophical. I do not believe poorer folks should be stopped at borders when in search of a better life. I know what the pangs of poverty are. I know them because I endured them in Wortmanville in South Georgetown. I have been a newspaper columnist for 31 years, and I have never described my life of poverty from the time I was born. One day I will.
If Haitians are coming here either to live or to pass through, then Guyanese must let them. Let the lower income people from Venezuela, Brazil, Venezuela and Haiti, and Cuba come here. We must welcome them. The peoples of this world have an obligation to the people of Haiti.
Haiti has suffered and continues to suffer from incredible levels of poverty. We who live in countries that have a higher level of development have a moral and philosophical obligation to these souls. Haiti has endured unbelievable suffering for too long. If Haitians are looking for their place in the sun, then Guyana, one of the most under-populated countries in the entire world, should extend an inviting hand.
There is talk that they are using Guyana as a transit point. What is the problem with that? If they are passing through Guyana to get to other countries then why should we stop them? I doubt any reasonable Guyanese can shape an argument to reject the Haitians using Guyana as a gateway. I would like to see the premise of that argument. What is wrong with thousands of Haitians buying an airline ticket to come to Guyana, then, buying another ticket to fly out?
Obviously, the recipient governments can object and say that you are using your geographical proximity to facilitate the Haitians into our countries. But to date, none of our neighbours have objected. If they are going to Brazil, Suriname and French Guiana, then why should Guyana stop them from coming here in-transit?
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It is a different story altogether if we facilitate the Haitians to cross our borders into other territories to commit crimes. That has not been the scenario, so let the Haitians pass through and let them go to the countries of their choice. What about those who want to stay in Guyana?
Here is where the ugliness of Guyana’s politics and sociology come in. There is the talk that if we let in thousands of Haitians, the demographic shape of Guyana will change. Change to what? I must confess my ignorance here. I don’t know what will change if lots of people from India or Haiti come to Guyana. Is it our culture as one person lamented in his commentary? I would be over-anxious to see an explanation of how that can happen. What if we change their culture? That is more of a distinct possibility. Guyanese are by nature, generous, democratic and fun-loving.
The politics of it fits right into the boiling pot of electoral competition. There are those who feel, many Indians coming here will settle down to choosing a party that has Indian people in it, and the Haitians will do likewise.
Why are Guyanese so stupid to put race and politics into every aspect of their lives? If the leaders and citizens of US, Canada and CARICOM countries think in such vile terms, then Guyanese would have had to run to Iceland and Greenland.
If there is no wrongdoing by the Haitians, and if they come and they join Guyanese society, and if they come to make an honest living, then all Guyanese must welcome them. God knows, we need more people in this country. It could do with a few millions.