David Comissiong

About David Comissiong

David Comissiong is a Barbadian attorney-at-law and political activist.

We in the Peoples Empowerment Party (PEP) do not know whether Ms Shanique Myrie of Jamaica is telling the truth when she asserts that she was sexually assaulted at Grantley Adams International Airport by a female Barbadian state official who also made derogatory remarks about Jamaicans.

What we do know, however, is that Ms Myrie is not the only female migrant who has alleged that she was indecently assaulted by a state functionary while in the custody of our Immigration Department. There is also the case of Ms Evelyn Mensah of Ghana!

Ms Mensah was one of the 100 odd Ghanaians and Nigerians who were stranded in Barbados in 2008. She was taken into custody by our Immigration Department and was placed in a detention facility. Ms Mensah subsequently alleged that she was sexually assaulted by a male security officer at the said facility.

The matter was reported to the Royal Barbados Police Force, and after carrying out their investigations, the Police arrested and charged the alleged male perpetrator and placed him before the Law Courts. Unfortunately, however, Ms Evelyn Mensah was placed on an airplane with her African compatriots and flown out of Barbados before the criminal charge was heard!

And so, Barbadians should not rush to judgment in the Shanique Myrie case. We should not automatically accept the word of Ms Myrie, nor should we automatically accept the results of the investigation carried out by the Immigration Department. Rather, just like in the case of Evelyn Mensah, this allegation should be investigated by the Royal Barbados Police Force!

Let the Barbados and Jamaican governments make joint arrangements for Ms Myrie to return to Barbados so that she can make a proper report of the alleged crime to our Police Force, and let the matter be treated and determined like any other criminal matter!

However, while our Party cannot pronounce definitively on the Shanique Myrie issue, we can assert that the general attitude of our Immigration Department towards Caribbean and African migrants has undergone a deterioration over the past three years!

There can be no doubt that the change in Government that occurred in Barbados in January 2008 brought with it a significant change in the official policy and attitude of the Barbados Government towards our Caribbean brothers and sisters.

Whatever else one might say about the previous Barbados Labour Party administration, one has to concede that at the highest levels of government they consistently identified with the Caribbean Community and encouraged Barbadians – public servants and private citizens alike – to demonstrate a healthy sense of appreciation of our Caricom brothers and sisters.

The new Democratic Labour Party administration, on the other hand, has done much to undo this positive spirit of regionalism. Indeed, the negative tone was set by former Prime Minister David Thompson who, in winding up his first budget debate, declared on national television that Barbadians were different from other Caribbean people, and were, infact, “entitled” to feel that they were “better” than other Caribbean people.

Of course, the Thompson administration also went on to scuttle the liberal policy of the previous BLP government in relation to intra-Caricom migration, and, wittingly or unwittingly, gave native Barbadians the official green-light to revert to old narrow-minded, small island prejudices.

Unfortunately, our Immigration Department seems to have taken its cue from the political directorate and has regressed to a state in which many Immigration Officers now see Caribbean (and African) migrants merely as potential “problems” to be kept out of Barbados, rather than as brothers and sisters to be welcomed.

David Comissiong is leader of the People’s Empowerment Party.