Monday, June 20, 2011

The Bahamas embracing the concept of hospitality for all?

By Jean H Charles

My empirical observation has indicated that some of the most successful Haitian women in the Diaspora have either a Bahamian or a Turks and Caicos connection. Is it their excellent command of the English language, the high level of the education system in The Bahamas or the leadership skills and the assertiveness traits acquired through resilience that make possible the self assurance conducive to material success?
I am still pondering the question!

Jean H Charles MSW, JD is Executive Director of AINDOH Inc a non profit organization dedicated to building a kinder and gentle Caribbean zone for all. He can be reached at: jeanhcharles@aol.comThe nation of Haiti, in spite of its history as a freedom fighter trailblazer, has trailed in the culture of giving voice to the voiceless such as full rights and possibilities to its women. It does have a minister for women’s affairs, with the same minister (Marie Laurence Jocelyne Lassegue) in charge of that ministry for almost the last twenty years. Yet the outcome and the impact of her tenure are as deceiving and negative as in the other aspects of the life of the nation.

The voiceless who could not make a life in their own land have taken the chance on a leaky boat to The Bahamas or to the Turk and Caicos. They have encountered all types of discrimination and difficulty. They have endured and their children have attended school under the strict discipline accustomed to in the motherland. Yet the children have prevailed, they occupy today the high echelon in business, arts and the media, to wit our esteemed Jacqueline Charles, hailing from the Miami Herald, the recognised black journalist of the year!

The prime minister of The Bahamas has just taken the position that the Haitian people in The Bahamas will be regularized not as second class citizens but as potential belongers who will provide value added human resources to the country.

According to Emil Vlajki, who I have often cited in this column (required reading: Les Misérables de la Modernité), the most important resources of a nation are first its population, second an educated population and third an educated, creative and resilient population.

The Haitian people, in spite of their resilience and their exceptional creativity, are lagging badly in wealth creation in their homeland because the governance has been so repugnant to its people that it has failed to make education a priority. (Michel Martelly, the new president of the country, may change course -- he is building a $300 million National Education Fund (NIF) to reach most of the children of age to attend school.)

The failure to receive hospitality at home has caused many Haitian people to seek a friendlier sky abroad. There are some one million in the Dominican Republic. The Bahamas and the Turk and Caicos have a population with 45 percent Haitian heritage. Dominica has 4,000 Haitian residents. Florida has a least half a million Haitian people.

The welcome mat differs from one country to the other. Dominica sees the Haitian people as a potential asset and, as such, the prime minister has instructed the different ministries to be tolerant towards the new migrants. The result has been positive for the economy of the country. The LIAT leg to Dominica is profitable because of the constant travels of the Haitian residents to and from their motherland.

From ancient Greece until modern New York City, the most enduring city-states have been those that practiced a policy of open arms to foreigners. The synergy and the osmosis of different culture is a fertile ground for growth and development.

My campaign in this column has been constant and focused: promoting under the Caribbean sky an environment where hospitality is queen. Hospitality first for the very citizens of the country and hospitality for all those who want to belong.

This atmosphere of hospitality is possible only if each country takes the responsibility of cleaning its own house by providing the means for enjoying the motherland without the need and the obligation to become a nomad at home or abroad. Haiti with Martelly in power will soon have a responsible government dedicated to stop the human trafficking -- the fermenting ingredient for discrimination.

The Bahamas, by using the conch shell so proper to the land, can send a vibrant echo that the CARICOM region is one, the fortune or the misfortune of one part is linked to the others. The lambi (conch) sound and message will reach the entire Caribbean basin as far as Guyana: discrimination against Haitian people in particular, and citizens of the Caribbean in general, is a nightmare of the past!

June 20, 2011