Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Fighting Ignorance and Bigotry

Mainly as a result of negative publicity received via the internet, Cayman Islands Health Minister Anthony Eden has issued an apology for atrocities committed against Jamaican, Shellesha Woodstock, who was ushered out of the country even after there were signs that she was giving birth. She eventually gave birth to a girl child on a Cayman Islands flight to Kingston.

The unholy haste to get the “foreigner” out of their country cost the tiny British colony in the Caribbean some brownie points from prospective tourists and investors after the ensuing bad press. That is the ONLY reason for the apology, make no mistake about it.

“The conclusion of an independent clinical auditors’ report is that Ms Woodstock did not receive optimal medical care or the support she needed in accessing medical resources,” Eden is quoted by Cayman Net News as saying.

As previously mentioned in this blog, the Cayman Islands is one of the few countries in the world with the kind of oppressive immigration laws it now has. It is impossible for a child born of non-national parents in Cayman to automatically become a citizen of the country. Jamaicans and other Caribbean nationals are also openly discriminated against, leading some years ago to the imposition of visa restrictions against Jamaicans – a move quickly countered by the Jamaican government which imposed its own visa regime.

Apology notwithstanding, my question stands: What the hell is Cayman doing as an Associate Member of CARICOM?

While this happens, there is a steely silence on the issue in the Jamaican press, save for one lame editorial in the Gleaner which noted the apology “with a sense of relief, then, not victory, that we note the Cayman government has conceded to an error that led to the birth of Lateisha Julene Clarke on a flight from Cayman to Jamaica on October 2, 2007.”

Relief? What is there to be relieved about? Not long after the Woodstock incident, an attempt was made to similarly get rid of a woman about to deliver twins by hustling her back to Jamaica. The children DIED. What followed was an obscenely irrelevant debate over the adequacy of health insurance for the woman.

When this small-island-big-ego nonsense reaches deadly proportions then it is time to shout at the top of our Caribbean voices: “STOP IT!”

The countries of CARICOM need to make serious decisions about these rogue nations and territories hanging around the regional corridor. Every single country that has visa regimes to block Guyanese and Jamaican visitors should be asked the question: What the hell do you want with CARICOM?

Then we need to turn to the question of Haiti and why the discrimination against them, even by countries not threatened by the undoubted stresses of a refugee situation.

Why is it still necessary, for instance, for Haitians to get a visa before entering Trinidad and Tobago? Is this prudent action to promote greater security or plain, old-fashioned ignorance and bigotry?

Do we condone this as a region? Or do we express "relief" that something worse did not happen than the mere birth of a child in the aisle of an aircraft 20,000 feet off the ground?

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