The recent report that a Guyanese, Jeetindra Sookram, succumbed as a result of being denied medical attention by a sister Caricom country (Trinidad & Tobago), must cause every Guyanese to engage in deep reflection as to how as individuals and a nation we should move forward with regard to our relationship with the twin island republic. Mr Sookram was a tourist who left Guyana to spend his vacation in Trinidad; he was depositing his finances in the Trinidadian economy and he was repaid by ingratitude and inhumane treatment. What a sickening, cold and heartless attitude. For years Guyanese have been mistreated by some Caricom sister states yet those who operate at the highest level of Caricom seem not to know or are unwilling to deal with this issue.
We know of airport authorities treating Guyanese citizens as less than human, making them sit in holding cells for no apparent reason. It has been reported that Mr Sookram was denied medical attention at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex because he was not a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago. I question whether he was really turned away because he was a non-national or because he was Guyanese. I cannot imagine Trinidadian hospital personnel turning away an American citizen or a Bajan national. As a strong advocate of Caricom and Caribbean integration, I am dismayed and appalled at this situation. Guyanese must be outraged, because it could have been any one of us. I know of many Guyanese who are working their hearts out in Trinidad and making a valuable contribution to the development of the T&T economy, but yet we are being treated like outcasts.
Mr Sookram’s death should cause all of us to reassess how we are treated by some of our sister Caricom states and decide whether we will continue to be tourists or residents in those countries. We travel by the planeload to carnival and have fun; Mr Sookram’s case informs us about what it might mean to fall ill behind the soca truck. It is, therefore, time to rethink our engagement with the T&T tourist sector, both at the personal and national level.
The Caricom organization has been silent in the face of the obvious mistreatment of Guyanese by some member states. I eagerly wait to see what will be the Secretariat’s intervention, if any, in Mr Sookram’s case. Guyanese must not take this tragedy sitting down as any of us could have been in Mr Sookram’s position. Thus, this issue should affect all of us and cause us to be outraged. We must collectively stand and demand justice for Mr Sookram and for ourselves. Let us call on the leaders of Caricom to act, and act now. Today it is Mr Sookram tomorrow it is someone else. Guyanese life must be valued, and Guyanese must be respected.