Need for a robust programme to manage migration

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Dear Editor,
I APPLAUD the Chairman of ANUG Mr Timothy Jonas for having the courage to raise what is a controversial and problematic issue, that is, the issue of migration to Guyana and the process by which foreign nationals can obtain citizenship (SN 15/9/19).
The Organization for the Victory of the People (OVP) has raised similar concerns regarding Guyana’s criteria for citizenship. These concerns are not born out of a xenophobic mindset or any form of national chauvinism, as Mr Ferlin F Pedro (SN 17/9/19) suggested in his letter responding to ANUG’s call for “the government to cease all grants of citizenship to foreigners, unless and until stringent and clear criteria for citizenship are made available for public examination and discussion.” OVP adds our voice to ANUG’s call.

When people in any country dare to raise concerns regarding immigration and the granting of citizenship to foreign nationals, there is always a knee-jerk reaction. You can count on a section of the populace of any country where such concerns are raised, to immediately hurl allegations of racism and xenophobia, as Mr Pedro has done. We in the OVP are not interested in knee-jerk reactions; what we are interested in is the intentions/reasons behind the concerns raised. We are confident that Mr Jonas has raised this very important issue for the same reason that the OVP has raised it, and that is our primary concern that Guyana’s vast and bountiful resources are used to benefit first and foremost, all Guyanese.

When looking around the world, both in so-called developed and less developed countries, what we do know is that opening one’s borders without stringent and clear criteria can lead to an increase in xenophobia, unrest and chaos. This is especially so in an environment where people are pitted against each other and used as scapegoats by a government which has no social and economic plan in place to deal with the influx. A good example of such reckless governance is the recent comment made by Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan, at a PNCR press conference, where he unashamedly stated: “…if I am prepared to cut grass for $1000, but the native wants to cut grass for $1,500, who are you going to employ? Most obviously, the $1000…and I would go for the $1,000.” This can only be a prescription for the kind of deep division and social unrest that we have seen in so many other countries worldwide.

As leader of the OVP, I can assure every Guyanese at home and abroad, that we are vehemently opposed to all forms of racism, xenophobia and ethnic chauvinism. The OVP’s vision is for a Guyana that is inclusive and respects the cultural heritage of every ethnic group that comprises our national citizenry and any foreigners that reside in our country. We are committed to the achievement of an egalitarian society in which the dignity of every human person is sacred and paramount. The OVP has campaigned from our inception for a Guyana where every citizen can prosper and thrive in a democratised economy.

Furthermore, we would want to ensure that foreign investors, be they ExxonMobil or any other, enjoy a fair and transparent relationship with us as a sovereign and independent nation-state. Any deal in which one party is disrespected and exploited by the other party, can only result in disaster. OVP has long called for a renegotiation of the oil and gas contract with ExxonMobil. Recently, I was asked, “how would OVP get ExxonMobil to the table?” In case anyone has failed to notice, when large oil reserves are being discovered within your borders, there is quite literally no one who does not want to come to your table. The problem is not how to get people to the negotiating table; the problem is that we need leaders who have the audacity and confidence to negotiate a contract that serves the interests of both Guyana and foreign investors, rather than an invitation to plunder, issued by both the PPP and APNU+AFC.

We are already witnessing an influx of foreign nationals and foreign corporations and our concern, like that of ANUG’s, is how this influx will be managed to ensure that Guyanese do not become second and third-class citizens in our own country. It is a legitimate concern that must be addressed.

Regards
Gerald A. Perreira
Organization for the Victory of the People (OVP)