Divided societies like Guyana suffer from a phenomenon whereby historic events which, when they occurred, gave rise to allegations of ethnic bias, never seem to go away. The West Indies Federation, which lasted from 1958 to 1962, is one such. It is an historic event which is hardly relevant to contemporary Guyana today. Yet the debate on Jagan’a attitude to the Federation rages, as if the event occurred yesterday, and not more than 50 years ago. It is contextualized to the current ethnic controversies, one of which is to seek to continually paint Jagan as a racist, or at least to allege that he was motivated by ethnic considerations. His role in the establishment of the University of Guyana has become another. But that is for another time.
An editorial in the Stabroek News of December 19, 1986, on ‘Regional Integration’ stated that ‘…others, notably Eusi Kwayana (then Sydney King) attributed Jagan’s opposition [to the Federation] to his unwillingness to be swamped in a predominantly African grouping. C.L.R. James is also reported to have made a similar assertion. In response to the Stabroek News editorial, Jagan replied as follows:
Shanique Myrie is a Jamaican national who was detained at the Grantley Adams Airport in Barbados upon arrival on March 14, 2011 and deported the following day to Jamaica. She alleged that she was subjected to a humiliating body cavity search in insanitary conditions. Ms. Myrie instituted legal proceedings at the Caribbean Court of Justice in its original jurisdiction on January 12, 2012. She claimed that her right of entry without harassment under Article 45 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas (“Revised Treaty”) and a 2007 Decision of the Conference of Heads of Government (“Conference Decision”) was violated. Ms. Myrie also claimed that she was discriminated against on the ground of her nationality in violation of Articles 7 and 8 of the Revised Treaty. The Jamaican Government appeared to have put its weight and resources into the case on Ms. Myrie’s behalf.
Barbados denied all of the allegations and claimed that Ms. Myrie was rightfully refused entry because she was untruthful about the identity of her Barbadian host. Barbados also argued that the 2007 Conference Decision did not create for Ms. Myrie a legal right but that if it did, it was not an absolute right and could not be judicially reviewed. Having satisfied itself that it had jurisdiction the Court proceeded to take evidence in sittings in Jamaica and Barbados. Submissions were made at its seat in Trinidad and Tobago.