13 Jamaicans denied entry to Trinidad and Tobago

Jamaicans are considerably incensed over Trinidad and Tobago’s refusal to grant 13 of their compatriots permission to land in that country. The subject has dominated the talk shows as well as social media ever since the day the 13 were sent back. This isn’t the first time this has happened, in fact news reports said that over the last three years at least 1000 Jamaicans have been sent back from the twin island republic. An Observer article provides details of what is promising to blow up into a diplomatic row:

On Tuesday, 13 Jamaicans, including an 11-year-old girl and a man who is married to a Trinidadian woman, were denied entry upon arrival at the Piarco International Airport in Port of Spain and were sent back to Jamaica the following morning.

Immigration officials at the airport seized the Jamaicans’ passports and ordered them to sit on a hard bench all night before shipping them out of the country, despite the fact that the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) allows for free travel between countries by Caribbean Community nationals.

The move by the Trinidadians is also a direct breach of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas and defies a recent ruling by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), which handed down a judgement in favour of Jamaican Shanique Myrie who had sued the Barbados Government.

Myrie was refused entry into Barbados on March 14, 2011, was detained, subjected to a dehumanising cavity search, and deported to Jamaica the following day.

Reactions from social media and local newspapers give some idea of the outrage this has caused:

From Facebook:

Mariel Brown
The fact that 13 Jamaicans from one flight were deported needs to be addressed by the tt government before we end up with a xenophobic backlash from Jamaica.

Diana Thorburn Chen
There are already FB fliers circulating calling for a boycott of all T&T goods & services.

Zarna Herrera
Xenophobic backlash in full force already

Signs of the xenophobic backlash are fully in evidence. The following is from the Observer article quoted above:

Jamaican George Lopez said Jamaicans can use their purchasing power to hit the Trinidadians where it hurts most.

“The only thing that works is the economic embargo. Don’t buy their goods, don’t give their children jobs. The Government won’t do it, so the people must,” said Lopez.

“I am going to remove my money from any financial institution that has ties to the eastern Caribbean. I have long boycotted them, my family and friends also, from the 1970s. They are racist,” he charged.

Lopez said Trinidadians’ hatred for Jamaicans go way back to the 1960s when the Alexander Bustamante-led Government voted against a Caribbean Federation.

“There is a retention of hatred. It is the small island mentality. Jamaica is a continental mentality. I won’t go there (Trinidad),” he said.

Meanwhile on Twitter my good friend Grindacologist was gnashing his teeth and muttering under his breath about any Trinidadian musicans coming here:

@Grindacologist

wait till kes the band try come round ere again…a worries…

all di one machels montanas…

goin mek dem sleep pon di tarmac…

when a jamaican gets killed in trinidad dem all try deport the corpse…

Stay tuned to this spot for further updates on this contentious issue.

The CCJ and Shanique Myrie: How to signify ‘good taste’ and ‘respectability’

A look at the Shanique Myrie case and how class and taste impinge on it.

myriepre
Shanique Myrie, circa the time of deportation from Barbados

There’s a landmark case being heard in Kingston, Jamaica, at the first sitting of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ ) here. In March 2011, Jamaican Shanique Myrie landed in Barbados to visit a friend there (by her own account). Instead of the usual sedate Barbadian welcome Myrie was treated to a cavity search, kept in a dark room and deported the next morning to Jamaica although nothing illegal was found on her person or in her possession.

After this unceremonious return to the country of her birth Myrie charged that in the process of the cavity search  she had been finger-raped by the immigration officials concerned. Her lawyers took the case to court claiming that her rights as a CARICOM citizen were abused, and that she was discriminated against because she is Jamaican.  The CCJ argued that Myrie does indeed have a case against Barbados and the trial began yesterday morning at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston.

Myrie--Brown_w445
Photo of Myrie (r) from the Jamaica Observer

When one of my favourite Jamaican journalists who was present in court yesteday tweeted the link to her post on the proceedings of the first day I clicked on it rather eagerly but was repelled by her opening sentence:

A beautiful fair skinned pony tailed, black suit, white inside blouse wearing young woman in a medium heeled closed up black shoes, Shanique Myrie is called into conference room 2 at the Jamaica Conference Centre, in a fight for her rights as guaranteed under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas which establishes the Caribbean Court of Justice, CCJ.

In the first place, the Grammar Nazi in me was offended by the overladen, clumsy, grammatically dubious lead-in to the report. How on earth could “white inside blouse wearing young woman” be considered acceptable English by anyone but particularly a journalist? Was there a moratorium on fullstops, commas and hyphens? How could a black suit ever be described as beautiful, fair-skinned and pony-tailed?!

myrie

Second, why was it important to know what the claimant was wearing? would a male petitioner’s clothing have been described in such tiresome detail? Later in the same post the journalist went on to note:

Wearing a diamond shaped gold looking clip on earring, Miss Myrie recites her full name as Shanique Samantha Myrie who though unemployed now works in food and beverage in better times.

I was dumbfounded and took to Twitter challenging this gendered depiction of events. Why not focus on the substance of what was unfolding in court and leave sartorial detail  to be captured by TV cameras ? The journalist responded saying “I believe it is important to paint a full pic for all.” She appeared puzzled by my objections.

I was even more puzzled by the reaction of another tweep, @diva_simmo, who argued that “in the court room image is everything. Even Vybz Kartel choose jacket and tie over – straight jeans and fitted.”  Her next tweet said “as a listener I found the information very useful especially the ‘medium heel shoe’. Image matters.”

Curiouser and curiouser. Pray how did it help to know that the claimant wore a medium heel shoe I tweeted back.

Because “if she wore 6″red wedge with mini green dress and blue wig it would indicate the direction her legal team is taking” responded @diva_simmo, “…her attire in court says legal team is portraying self respecting, mature professional.”

The penny dropped.

This landmark case is not only about nationality, it’s also about ‘class’, the ungainly elephant in the room no one wants to explicitly mention. It is important to portray Myrie as ‘decent’ ‘respectable’ and ‘sober’ because the image of Jamaicans in the region is overwhelmingly influenced by the higglers, DJs and hustlers who often represent the face of Jamaica,  visiting, even migrating to other countries, where they are not always welcome.

Why? because these enterprising but capitally-challenged individuals (ie owning  little capital, whether financial or social) often violate all the dearly held norms of ‘decency’ ‘respectability’ and ‘good taste’ with their choice of garments, raw speech and boisterous behaviour. They regularly transgress the zealously guarded borders of civility and decorum as much as the borders of nation states which under the new Chaguaramas Treaty they now have a right to breach.

Perhaps this was why Myrie was given the finger when she arrived in prim and proper Barbados, regionally glossed as ‘Little England’. Not just because she was Jamaican but because she was perceived to be a particular kind of Jamaican. So @Emilynationwide was right to emphasize the outfit and demeanour of Ms Myrie. It may be extremely germane in the instant case.

PS: The overall point I’m making in this post is not to dis the journalist concerned or claim that there was no substance to her post. Far from it. When i said let’s focus on substance rather than style or appearance it hadn’t yet occurred to me that in this case style IS the substance or a substantial part of what’s at stake.   I realized belatedly based on something @diva_simmo said that the reason for the focus on Myrie’s dress was because class prejudice is a real danger here and Myrie’s appearance is material evidence that may well influence the jurists involved,  so much so that her legal counsel went to great pains to counter this by dressing her ‘classily’. So Emily was right to focus on how this was achieved. Being somewhat resistant if not immune to the strictures of fashion this wasn’t obvious or self-evident to me. My point is simply that if class is an issue let’s explicitly state it and discuss it because that’s the substance of what we’re getting at by extensively describing Myrie’s carefully assembled clothing. Profound apologies for any distress I caused Emily Crooks.