Monday, April 15, 2024

GUEST COLUMN: Our Caribbean family


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ON SUNDAY, June 27, I had the great honour of being invited to an event on the spacious and lovely grounds of Mount Gay Distillery on Spring Garden.This event was entitled A Taste Of Guyana. Almost 900 people attended, and they were understandably celebrating the anniversary of Guyana’s independence (delayed in part because of the sad passing of Consul Norman Faria).It was refreshing to hear the songs that reminded us of the cultural talents of Guyanese, and to sample the food, including the caviar of all curries – duck. One must congratulate the Guyanese Association of Barbados Inc. which organised this event.  In particular, the extraordinary Jan, who went far beyond the call of duty, assisted by many others, created an event I believe will attract even more people in future years. A good time was had by all.I must confess I feel blessed and privileged to be a son of the Caribbean soil. As a Barbadian I want to remind all concerned of the substantial contribution of our country to Guyana. My recollection and research have verified that thousands of Barbadians travelled to Guyana from the 1800s, driven no doubt by the economic hardships that Barbados experienced during that century, and they made an indelible impression on country.In Guyana, one grew up with the families of the Gittenses, Thompsons, Brathwaites, Browns, Hoytes and many others; and they were welcomed with open arms.The reverse is substantially true: that Guyanese have continued to make substantial contributions to Barbados – names too numerous to mention fully in this column – whether it is the grandfather of our esteemed Prime Minister, for whom we continue to pray, or the incomparable Dame Olga Lopes-Seale. And, scattered throughout our country are sons and daughters of Guyana, the vast majority of whom make a valuable contribution to Barbados.So, it is fitting and proper for me to say on behalf of the Guyanese: thank you, Barbadians, for coming as migrants to our country and making such an indelible contribution. On the other hand, on behalf of Barbados: thank you, Guyanese, for the contribution you have made and continue to make.Unfortunately, during the last decade or so, economic migration from Guyana, while good in large measure, did have a negative side which our Government has sought to rectify as is happening in other countries throughout the world.And, I expect that regularisation to continue in a humane, just and lawful manner. But this is far beyond just Barbados and Guyana; and perhaps it allows us in current times to focus on the bigger picture: our Caribbean dream and aspirations.I look forward to further meaningful development out of the Heads Of Government Conference ended in Jamaica on Thursday. I expect under Bruce Golding’s leadership and that of the the incomparable Secretary General of CARICOM – and substantially contributed to by Trinidad’s Prime Minister Kamla Bissessar-Persad and our own Acting Prime Minister Honourable Freundel Stuart – that this conference may well have been a catalyst.And as Bruce Golding said, let’s get action; cut the talk.On reflection, we must ensure that what we might begin to call Team Caribbean functions as fully and as effectively as it can. The countries in Europe may have taken centuries to demonstrate that they can work together. Our Caribbean family, not limited to prime ministers and ministers of government, but including the high-quality public officials that our countries are privileged to have, supported fully by the CARICOM Secretariat, must commit itself to do three most important things to bring about Caribbean unity.  These are implementation, implementation and implementation.  We can do it.
•Frank da Silva is a member of the Democratic Labour party and a former high commissioner.


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