The opportunity is being taken to publicly commend Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley for leading the way in treating with our Caribbean sisters and brothers of Haiti, with her government’s decision to lift the visa restriction for these nationals’ entry into Barbados. By this action the Prime Minister is not only demonstrating her ability to talk the talk but also walk the walk, exemplifying the spirit and intent of the integration movement (Caribbean Community) and the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).
It remains disturbing the discriminatory treatment being meted out against Haitians by CARICOM countries and citizens, when Haiti is not only a member-state but shares similar history and in many instances has led the way in the fight for human dignity and respect in this Region. Excuses found and being made about their movement to member-countries on the pretext of language barrier masked discrimination against them, for similar treatment or excuse is not being directed towards Chinese, Brazilians, Venezuelans and others who are flocking to our shores.
The Haitians’ religious practice of voodoo is too another excuse to discriminate against them. Our Constitution, and also in other member-states, protect religious freedom. The African, East Indian, Amerindian and other groups’ historical religious practices were among the early acts of an independent nation, under the government of Forbes Burnham, that were decriminalised.
The Haitian people are industrious, intelligent, and renowned for their farming practices, making them an asset wherever they go. Where the world is focused on healthy eating/ organic foods with our vast un-occupied and untilled land mass their labour can be valuable. A recent study conducted by Zion Market Research said the global organic food and beverage market in 2017 valued US$124.76 Billion. This market is expected to reach US$323.09 Billion by 2014 (www.onegreenplanet.org).
With Prime Minister Mottley’s pronouncement hopefully the other Heads of Government in attendance at the forum have taken note of her bold and decisive leadership in giving meaning to the spirit and intent of CARICOM and CSME and will likewise follow suit. This was the type of leadership demonstrated by Errol Barrow (Barbados), Forbes Burnham (Guyana), Eric Williams (Trinidad and Tobago) and Michael Manley (Jamaica) that brought them to the table and led to the establishment of CARICOM, i.e. the desire to harness the resources of the region (land, labour, capital and entrepreneurship) for the development of the Region and its people. The act of removing barriers (discrimination, travel restriction, etc) aids the integration process and the Treaty of Chaguaramas.
This issue where Heads of Government meetings have within recent times come to be seen as a that of a talk shop and leaders standing at the podium calling for actions they are empowered to effect, there resides optimism that Mottley’s speech and action will serve as a reminder that the CARICOM Secretariat cannot do the job designated to the governments. The disreputable image CARICOM attracts by its people is in large part due to the inaction by the governments and discrimination against brothers and sisters of the Region.