Prime Minister (PM) Moses Nagamootoo is of the opinion that Haitians are being used as “political scapegoats”. The politician made this assertion in his weekly column, “My Turn”, published in the state media.
The PM’s utterance comes at a time when the nation is experiencing an influx of Haitian nationals, which some sections of society contend is not coincidental. The Parliamentary Opposition, the Peoples’ Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), has raised concerns of this occurrence; claiming that the nationals are being “smuggled” into the country by the David Granger-led Administration to pad the electoral list with government-desired people to give the governing party an advantage at the upcoming regional and general elections.
The PPP/C’s claim has faced harsh criticisms over the last couple of days from several factions of society who are of the view that Haitians are being targeted, given the fact that the number of Haitians is relatively small to other nationals that came to Guyana.
The opposition continues to defend its claim, while the government maintains that Guyana is merely being used as a gateway by Haitians who are seeking “greener pastures”.
Meanwhile, social media platforms – primarily Facebook – continue to be used by citizens, both local and abroad, to ventilate their thoughts on the matter, which often results in heated debates and exchange of racial slurs.
PM Nagamootoo in his column said that the Haitian migration is being politicised by people “who should know that Guyana had once shared the despicable faith of Haiti as the two poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere.”
The senior politician said that it is “unfortunate” that some elements are picking on Haitians who have been fleeing from their perennial and seemingly never-ending tragedies of one type or the other — from natural disasters, diseases and dictatorship — and who transit in Guyana.”
Nagamootoo posited a supposition to the effect that since Haitians speak French and the nearest French territory on the shoulder of South America is French Guiana, it is possible that with the non-functioning of the M.V. Canawaima between official ports of entry in Guyana and Suriname, that more persons are using the so-called “backtrack” to make the crossing and to travel onwards.
Nagamootoo, who was once a member of the PPP/C, took a jab at the party on the house-to-house registration being conducted by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), which is now embroiled in controversy.
The PM said that the opposition fears this process as if it had seen a “jumbie” (ghost). “In fact, it is seeing jumbies everywhere, the latest in the terrifying hordes are Haitians.”
He argued that the statistics show that between January 1, 2019 and July 30, 2019, some 135,220 persons of 11 nationalities arrived in Guyana. Of those numbers, 41,272 were Cuban nationals. He said that no protests were made over Cuban arrivals, or departures by the opposition, which leads him to suspect that the focus of the PPP/C is biased.
“During the past seven months, 45,994 American nationals arrived. No protests have been made. Arrivals from Trinidad and Tobago numbered 11,119. No protest. But 8,476 Haitians arrived and the Leader of the Opposition singled them out as being at the centre of a massive people-smuggling racket,” Nagamootoo said.
The politician went on to say that Haitians are not coming to Guyana illegally and that they are citizens of a Caribbean Community (CARICOM)-member state, which has benefitted from an Immigration Order that was unanimously approved by regional Heads of Government in July 2018 to allow them an automatic six-month stay in all CARICOM member states.
“It has been long accepted by our leaders that CARICOM should build bridges, not walls,” The PM emphasised.