Almost daily, I check out Mr. Freddy Kissoon’s editorial in the Kaieteur News. Some days I nod my head in agreement with his commentary on the state of the nation and the hypocrisy of too many of our elected officials on all sides of the aisle; other days I shake my head in wonder at his pronouncements; and on a few occasions, I have actually laughed out loud. What I absolutely admire about Mr. Kissoon is that he has the courage of his convictions. On Wednesday, 20 November 2019, however, I was saddened by the stance Mr. Kissoon chose in his Op-ed “The words of Carl Greenidge.”
Mr. Kissoon’s column ended with these words: “I am not against expatriate Guyanese taking important jobs in Guyana; I just feel if we have local talent available, their sacrifice should be recognized.” There is not one reasonable Guyanese who would argue this point. I believe that Mr. Kissoon could have put a well-deserved exclamation point after the word available. However, he also stated that his “ideological position is INFLEXIBLE and DEFINITIVE – rulers…not give preference to diaspora people who had opportunities the locals longed for.” Who are these “diaspora people” Mr. Kissoon refers to? Fellow Guyanese?
This divide, the simmering resentment between Guyanese who “stayed”, and the diaspora must end now, before it is too late. It poisons every transaction between us. My friends have said to me on several occasions, “We stayed!” and I reply, “We PAID!” Annually, the hundreds of millions of US dollars (amounting to more than 7% of Guyana’s GDP) pouring into this country through remittances, come at huge sacrifices to those who live and work abroad.
Mr. Kissoon is well aware that those in the diaspora pay for land bought and homes built and for thousands of children to be better educated right here at home, an experience many wish they could afford their own children “in foreign.” Sacrifice is also being away from one’s beloved country, family and friends; lost time with and loss of our elders and loved ones; the constant indignities played out in micro and macro acts of racism and xenophobia; adjusting to climates most hate, especially super storms and bitter winters; the extra work shifts; etc. Guyanese in the diaspora try in myriad ways to ease the suffering of loved ones at home.
Migration is not a Guyanese story. It is the story of all humanity told through religious texts, archeological digs, mythology, history books, biographies and fiction. It is thousands of years, possibly millions of years old, and sacrifices are made by those who stayed, as well as those who ventured off to new lands.
At a function recently, where she was a panelist, Ms. Paloma Mohamed (Mr. Kissoon mentioned her in his column) was asked how to breach the divide between those who stayed and those in the diaspora, to which she replied, and I quote “When yuh abandon…, yuh got fuh beg back.” I wanted to ask her “Why?” If this is the thinking of our educated minds, we have no chance, and we can just give the country over to the REAL foreigners, who are laughing all the way to their banks with our resources, while we verbally, emotionally and physically fight one another. Do we really need another thing that divides us?
With less than a million people, resource rich, and a massive land mass, we are still a struggling, Third World nation, and oil alone will not make us less so. Guyana needs ALL her children, period! If it were not so, this country would look more like Singapore, which gained
independence only one year before Guyana, has a population of 5.6 million, 278.6 square miles, and pitiable natural resources.
If Guyana’s “stayed” population does not make space for her children who wish to return and genuinely serve with their expertise gained abroad, then other countries will continue to benefit from the great minds we have produced, and Guyana will be the slower and poorer for it. We are everywhere contributing to other societies. This July, every newspaper in Kenya and many beyond mourned the death of Bob Collymore, a Guyanese, who oversaw the expansion of Safaricom into East Africa’s biggest mobile network operator.
I can only dream of what we could have done with his expertise in the land of his birth.
Should Mr. Greenidge be made to feel ashamed of the opportunities his parents afforded him? What percentage of this population would have rejected similar opportunities? Bringing his gifts of decades of experience, we so desperately need, should our country not benefit because “untold numbers in Guyana could not have accessed” his academic opportunities?
If you had a brain tumour and you had the choice of a world-renown Guyanese brain surgeon (and I have a friend who happens to be one) and the best of a locally educated one, whom would you choose? Who cuts off their nose to spite their face? Then again it appears as though we do. Although there are well respected Guyanese experts in the diaspora, none accompanied the uninitiated sent to negotiate on our behalf with the world’s corporate oil giants, and we all know how that ended.
Mr. Kissoon you are an important a member of our civic society, and I am asking you kindly to replace your intransigence on this important issue and instead use your platform to foster a national discourse on bridging the divide between those who stayed and the diaspora. We could all air our grievances, ‘buse out a little, cry, laugh and heal together. Lest we forget, we are family, and Guyana is home.
Cheryl E. Noel