“It is the dream of every man to go back to the land where he was born, and that’s how it is with me. Every night I say a silent prayer for the day when I can go home again.
To feel the warm morning sun and to walk where I used to run; many things can keep a man and his homeland apart, but the years and the miles can’t change what’s in a man’s heart; and somehow, I will go back to the land I love.”
Those words were penned as a sad refrain by Cuban exiles, but today they can be used by many Guyanese who are exiled from the land of their birth. Every day twenty-seven Guyanese leave the shores of Guyana, to take up permanent residence in the United States of America. According to the CIA fact book 14.32 per thousand Guyanese migrate every year. That translates to approximately 10,024 people leaving every year. This does not include the constant flow of citizens leaving for the Caribbean to seek employment, and Guyanese leaving for Canada and the United Kingdom. Published reports coming out of Guyana indicate that 82% per cent of our university graduates and a sizable percentage of trained teachers, nurses and retired public servants are also leaving the country every day.
Prior to 1992 the PPP and the other opposition forces blamed migration patterns on the Burnham regime.
The reasons given for mass immigrations were that people were running away from a repressive regime, lack of jobs, poor pay, declining education standards, victimization and lack of hope.
The PPP even coined a phrase for the mass migration; they said that because of the conditions in the country, people were; “voting with their feet.”
During this period thousands of Guyanese left their homeland, seeking the prepared places of the world. Canada, and the United States of America were the destinations of choice for most of the exiles. This exodus was not confined to one racial group; it crossed all ethnic barriers, social and economic classes. Against this backdrop the PPP in opposition promised to put an end to the exodus by bringing true democracy to Guyana. They said that they would improve the education system; there would be better paying jobs, and true national unity.
Dr Jagan said his government would be clean and lean and the PPP would build a nation that people would come home to and not run away from.
Today after almost twenty years in government the mass migration of Guyanese continues unabated.
This occurs against a backdrop of poor governance by a PPP administration that is marred by rampant corruption, nepotism, crime, narco/gun violence and a fear that stalks the land. The Jagdeo administration in its many pronouncements paints a rosy picture, but still every day 27 more Guyanese leave our shores for so called greener pastures.
Regardless of where you stand on the political divide, immigration is a serious issue, and it must be debated by the candidates that seek to earn our votes at elections planned for later this year. It is not enough to say, everybody wants to go to America. No, that is too simplistic and ignores the fact that there is a cost associated with this brain drain and human resource attrition. No country can be developed without human resources. When we lose our university grads to the US after we have invested in their education that is a loss, not only in terms of a national treasure but in terms of a developmental set back. When our teachers, trained at Cyril Potter prefer to teach the children of the greater and lesser Antilles, we lose not only monetarily, but we lose also the expertise to educate and inform another generation. When our nurses after being trained at our local hospitals leave for the US and Canada, it not only puts a burden on our health delivery system, but there is a cost in dollars and cents also.
Editor I attended the launch of APNU last Friday, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that many Guyanese who are currently living overseas, were in attendance. They came they said, to be part of history, to witness what many said to me was a turning point in our politics.
They were hopeful and buoyed by the possibility that maybe this time we will get it right, from Rupert Roopnaraine’s refrain of “Never again,” to David Granger’s litany of political ineptitude of the current regime and APNU’s blueprint to fix many of those problems. The night was not only good political theatre, but a ray of hope for the hundreds of thousands of Guyanese living in self-imposed exile.
This demographic is crucial to the development of this nation, and it is my prayer that maybe soon, under a government of national unity led by APNU, the current trend of migration will be reversed. Guyana is a beautiful place, blessed with an abundance of resources that should guarantee everyone a good life. When we go to the polls this year we must ask ourselves: do we want more of the same or do we want something better. For me and many exiles the answer is simple – we want change; it is time for change.