Pundits: Antiguans within their right to question employment of Caricom nationals

Integration Studies Lecturer at the Univesity of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill Campus Dr Kristina Hinds

A Lecturer of Integration Studies at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill Campus, has agreed that native Antiguans & Barbudans are within their right to question the process by which some Caricom nationals are able to gain employment in the country.

Dr Kristina Hinds said yesterday that “there are ways in which things are supposed to happen and there are improper ways. If any agency does things in ways that are improper and are questionable, certainly, the population has the right to ask why was this done?”

Her comments were made during the Big Issues programme on OBSERVER Radio, which looked at “attitudes of Antiguans towards non-nationals” following two separate incidents which occurred last week where residents raised concerns about how some nonnationals are employed.

The first matter involved the appointment of a Jamaican national to head a local national cultural policy project.

Although the government defended itself saying the project is funded by the European Union (EU), and it had little say in who was chosen, the public was nonetheless critical of the appointment.

In a second story, a senator supposedly mistakenly wrote a letter to the Immigration Department requesting that a visiting Jamaican national be hired as an Immigration Officer. The letter had also requested an extension of time for the Jamaican visitor.

Dr Hinds warned that politicians and those in other areas of government have to be very careful about what they are doing because “you can mistakenly whip up a level of xenophobia by means of doing these kinds of things”.

Former Ambassador, Joan Underwood, a professional, who travels extensively in the Caribbean and has worked on several projects in CARICOM countries and former Labour Commissioner Hesketh Williams made up yesterday’s three member radio panel.

The former Ambassador said that the news that a Jamaican national would head a local cultural project was “poorly communicated”.

She also argued that the reaction of natives was legitimate and should not be labelled as xenophobic.

“For us to be labelling a legitimate concern by Antiguans & Barbudans that the law is being broken, that politicians are facilitating people that they ought not to be facilitating – and to label that xenophobia, it’s a great disservice,” Underwood said.

Meanwhile, Williams said the government should have learnt from past experiences.

“The government already have the experience of what took place with the appointment of our Chief Immigration Officer; our Director of Tourism for one of the US markets and so, I think they could have done a better job in preparing the nation for the news about this recent position,” said the former labour commissioner.

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