The likes of Hollywood writers Woody Allen and the late Billy Wilder made millions for comical scripts that some in Barbados seem bent on providing for free. Perhaps, some of our fledgeling writers will take note of one specific situation in the island and put pen to paper or fingers to keypad for art’s sake.
Mr David Comissiong might be quickly realizing that there is a huge gap between being Barbados’ activist-in-chief and its Ambassador to CARICOM. He is the quintessential Caribbean man with a great affection for this region and undoubtedly a profound love for Barbados. We believe that he is primarily guided by a sense of justice and fairness and a desire to promote only the very best for Caribbean people. As a social activist, he has fought many battles on his own but now is part of Government with significant clout in terms of giving advice and determining policy as it relates to CARICOM matters. But there is a degree of naïveté that exists in this loyal Caribbean son which might be an extension of the Government he serves. And this has been brought into focus by Government’s handling of the Haiti visa requirement situation.
Yesterday Mr Comissiong revealed that the influx of Haitians into Barbados had forced his Government to reintroduce a visa requirement for persons coming from that beleaguered nation. He said Government was forced to re-impose the measure because Haitians were flocking to Barbados believing they could live and work here. Government had initially lifted the visa requirement in July 2018. Comissiong explained that the decision to remove the visa requirement for Haitians in the first place was due to the fact they were the only CARICOM citizens requiring a visa to travel to Barbados. He added this was in breach of the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, which allowed members of CARICOM to enjoy free access. But Mr Comissiong stressed that Government had no choice but to revert to the original policy because of the numbers flooding into Barbados.
Our goodly Ambassador explained that the policy was subsequently reversed under other articles of CARICOM that provide for any member state to suspend such a rule if the specific country faced negative consequences as a result. And here is where the creativity of some of our scriptwriters ought to kick in.
We would have expected that prior to lifting the visa requirement that some thought, some planning, some brain cells would have been put to work to examine the possible ramifications and repercussions of such a move. That is what sensible administrations do. Haitians are our brothers and sisters and we would wish to help them as much as we can without damaging the social fabric and infrastructure of Barbados. In any demonstration of brotherhood, commonsense too has its place. There are certain realities that must be accepted. Ranked among the poorest nations in the world with more than half the country living in abject poverty and about 75 to 80 per cent of the population living below the poverty line, what did Mr Comissiong and the Government expect would occur when the visa requirement to travel to Barbados was lifted?
But the slapstick gets funnier. Mr Comissiong indicated that the Haitian government did not educate its citizens on the provisions of the visa-free travel. He said this resulted in complications for Barbadian authorities.
“Enough work had not been done in Haiti to properly inform and educate the Haitian people about the rules and requirements pertaining to visa-free travel in the region,” Comissiong noted. Wow! Perhaps, the hilarity of that explanation was missed by its author.
But there is more. “What has to be understood is that the Haitians were coming, thinking that they were simply entitled to live and work in Barbados which was incorrect. So Barbados was being faced with a problem not of its making because it is not the responsibility of the Barbados Government to inform or educate the population of Haiti about the visa-free travel regime in the Caribbean community. That having not been done Barbados was the one facing the problem,” Mr Comissiong asserted. One would have thought that knowing the dire circumstances that exist in Haiti and taking into consideration that Barbados was the destination to which the Haitians were travelling, that our CARICOM Ambassador or anyone from Government would have seen the necessity to work with the Haitian government in this process from their vantage point. Whether the responsibility for enlightening Haitians about the lifting of visa restrictions was Haiti’s, Barbados’ or Humpty Dumpty’s, the fact that Barbados with all its economic vulnerabilities would have been one of the destinations for huge numbers of Haitians should have lit a bulb in someone’s head. But apparently not, it appears.
One simply cannot just make up this type of material. This has to be a gift.