In an era of social media and instant news, the case involving CARICOM national Shanique Myrie represents a major blow to Barbados and its tourism industry.
This headline making incident at Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) in which Myrie was body searched has been all over the blogosphere including the Associated Press which ran an article entitled, “Jamaican woman wins dispute over body search.”
I did not receive the news immediately but recalled inviting a colleague in Trinidad to visit Barbados for some relaxation and her immediate retort was, “no way, I hear you all raping women over there at the airport; it’s all over Facebook over here.”
This is a sad day for Barbados on so many levels. That this case has reached the highest court in the land and could not have been resolved before reaching this point, is embarrassing to say the least. This speaks therefore to the arrogance of Barbados’ officialdom and perhaps to underlying hubris in the national Barbadian character that needs to be checked urgently. It is the arrogance that ultimately motivated the court to rule in Myrie’s favor.
Shanique Myrie may have suffered the ultimate humiliation of a cavity search but thank God she stood up for her rights. Hopefully, this landmark case will change the way CARICOM nationals are treated and finally remove the shackles of intra-island discrimination and the petty nationalism that came along with the experiment of independence and nation-building some 50 years ago. The irony is that when we were all colonies of Britain, free movement of our citizens was not an issue. It’s a pity that the lofty ideal of self-determination brought along with it, the ugliest of human behavior – discrimination, plain and simple.
That Barbados would hire some of its best lawyers to defend this case is even more startling. If ever there was a foreign policy blunder, this has to go down in history as one of the country’s biggest blunders since independence. The reason being, Barbados’ national hero and premier of the West Indies Federation experiment, Sir Grantley Adams, ought to be a source of national pride. Barbados always took pride in Sir Grantley Adams’ achievement and our role in leading and scripting the integration narrative. Irony of ironies would have it that Shanique suffered her humiliation at the port named after that hero himself – Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA).
However, Shanique is not alone. Almost daily, there are horror stories emanating from GAIA as to the rough and inhospitable treatment meted out to visitors and Barbadians alike. No one seems to escape the blatant rudeness of airport workers starting from the check-in counters right through to the moment of boarding and bidding the country’s bad customer service farewell.
Let’s use this opportunity as a nation not to feel ashamed but to offer a national apology to Shanique Myrie. Let’s use this moment to rebuild our national pride and understand what the name Sir Grantley Adams truly means and represents in the journal of Caribbean history and integration. That Barbados along with Guyana are the only two CARICOM countries employing the Caribbean Court of Justice as its final appellate court also speaks volumes to our continued leadership role in pushing forward the integration agenda. The most ironic twist to the Shanique saga is that her country Jamaica has not yet signed onto the Caribbean Court of Justice as their final appellate court. Now let’s talk about self-determination.
Ian Walcott is a contributing writer to The Burton Wire. He is an international relations specialist and project consultant who shuttles between the Caribbean and Brazil.