Though I migrated from Jamaica eons ago and a naturalized American, I still take a keen interest in what happens on the island. I was appalled to read on Go-Jamaica’s website that the newly elected Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, is offering help to Caribbean neighbors affected by Hurricane Tomas, but with one caveat — the twin islands would get something in return. Really? Don’t even the most reviled countries, such as Iran, offer humanitarian aid when there’s a disaster with no strings attached? Gee, I wonder what Opposition Leader Portia Simpson-Miller’s response is to this heartless statement, considering she was first out of the gates to congratulate Ms. Persad-Bissessar on her historic win. A boycott of T&T is being pushed by outraged West Indians. Here’s an excerpt from Go-Jamaica:
“We will have to look at ways in which we would be able to assist. But you would recall my comments earlier this year, when I said there must be some way in which Trinidad and Tobago would also benefit,” she said at a press conference, adding that she would have to hold discussions with members of her Cabinet before deciding on what assistance could be provided.
These comments have not only drawn the condemnation of the opposition leader of that country, but of some members of the region who on Facebook, Twitter and through BlackBerry broadcast messages urged a boycott of Trinidad and Tobago products.
Is a boycott the best way to get back at PM Persad-Bissessar? Though her comments are selfish and heartless, revenge isn’t the way to go after her. You see, she made the unfortunate statement, not the people of Trinidad and Tobago, who would be adversely affected by a boycott. Ms. Persad-Bissessar will still live and be taken care of by the government. The reality is that it is time for West Indians to stand up to their elected officials and demand change. Jamaica, in particular, has been wracked by high crime and unemployment rates. What good is boycotting Trinidad and Tobago when their backyards are a hot mess?
Boycott the Jamaican government and the Constabulary force for not doing enough to protect returning residents such as Hortense McNeil, who was fatally stabbed multiple times in her Hopewell, Hanover, home last week after being robbed on multiple occasions. According to Percival La Touche, president of the Returning Residents Association, approximately 209 returning residents have been murdered in the last seven years, prior to 2007. The number of murder cases involving returning residents has increased since then and is a dangerous trend. These residents work hard overseas and deserve to be left alone to live out the rest of their lives in peace, not have a bull’s eye on their backs because they returned home from overseas and are at the mercy of armed thugs hellbent on taking what is not theirs by any means necessary.
Boycott the Jamaican government for not doing enough to improve the infrastructure of the island. It is a sad commentary that when it rains your land-line telephone service is knocked out. Why not install the telephone cables underground? Er, boycott the Jamaican government for not coming up with concrete ways to put more young people to work after they graduate from high school or college. Political leaders in both the ruling Jamaica Labor Party and the Peoples National Party have done little to facilitate the development of the nation’s youth. The youths are the future. What will Jamaica look like when they become adults?
For example, the U.S. State Department has issued a scathing report on Jamaica saying crime, including violent crime, is a serious problem in Jamaica, particularly in Kingston and Montego Bay. The report goes on to say that while the vast majority of crimes occur in impoverished areas, the violence is not confined. It further states that the primary criminal concern for tourists is becoming a victim of theft. In several cases, armed robberies of Americans have turned violent when the victims resisted handing over valuables. The State Department states that crime on the island is exacerbated by the fact that police are understaffed and ineffective. So, with this kind of information floating around out there, wouldn’t it behoove the Jamaican government to fix this mess? Why call for a boycott of Trinidad and Tobago because of what the prime minister said? The system must be changed on all these islands weighed down by high unemployment and crime, among other social and political issues. The people have the power to force their respective governments to do better.