Eyewitness: Protecting…


…our border

A couple of days ago, 26 Haitians were nabbed in two buses on route to Lethem, and 5 persons who arranged for their travel were arrested. No, they weren’t arrested because they obviously violated the COVID-19 regulations on public transportation, which forbid them from accepting more than half of their normal passenger load. The charges, we were told, were for “trafficking” the Haitians.

Not to get too technical, but when the subject was raised the last time, before the elections, when scads of Haitians were plying the same route, the PNC, then in Government, had pointed out that the element of “coercion” necessary for the “trafficking in persons” charge to stick was missing. The Haitians were willing to get over to Brazil or Suriname, and not many were staying in Guyana.

But the international law on the subject also covers trafficking migrants – which these Haitians are. The UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (UNTOC) says this about “migrant smuggling”: “Smuggling of Migrants is a crime involving the procurement for financial or other material benefit of illegal entry of a person into a State of which that person is not a national or resident. It undermines the integrity of countries and communities, and costs thousands of people their lives every year.”

The second objection that the PNC had raised, which had something to do with this smuggling of migrants, was that it would violate our obligations to Haiti as a member of Caricom – which promotes the “free movement of citizens” in our territories. But they failed to acknowledge that at the 29th intersessional meeting of Caricom leaders in February 2018, there was an agreement that while Haitians could enter a Caricom country freely by just presenting a passport, they had to prove that they had sufficient financial resources to live during a period of 6 months, without becoming a burden on the country visited.

For Guyana, this would mean at least US$500 monthly, or US$3000 for the six months for each person.

Now, every Guyanese who tried to enter Barbados over the last three decades should known their chagrin about this demand – even though they were card carrying (or visa bearing) members of CariCom. We protested then, but our leaders had to concede that Barbados had a right to deal with potential burdens on their state treasury.

Fact of the matter is that with Guyana projected to be the only economy in the region to grow in the near future – and what growth: 26%!! – we should expect a huge influx of persons who would want to remain here. We’ll move from an “in-transit” route to a fixed destination.

We need an immigration and international border policy right now!

…our lives

From the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, at the beginning of the year – we had our first case (imported) in March – epidemiologists warned about a “second wave”. This was based on experience from previous epidemics and pandemics. It was caused by a number of factors – for example, mutations of the virus, but especially from folks relaxing on precautionary measures over time. Well, the US and Europe are in the throes of their “second wave”, with exponential rises in their infection and hospitalization rates. But yet the US just warned its citizens to refrain for travelling to Guyana! What does that tell us about our state of affairs on the COVID front? And it IS A “front” – as in a “war front”!

We’ve opened up to save our economy, and so ought not to be surprised at our sustained infection rate. Every gathering has some potential for transmission. The point is, if people meet and don’t wear masks, the chances of infection rise.

Enforcement must be toughened!! Fines for “no masks”!

…the licence to loot

The PNC lawyer – whom they gave the licence to loot – after being arrested over the Peters Hall looting, protested that he wasn’t given a lie detector test!

There’s now a constitutional right to a lie detector test?