Recently, during an interview on Observer AM with Joanne Messiah, the leader of the Democratic National Alliance (DNA), and the representative of the All Saints East and St Luke, constituency, the issue pivoted to crime. Ms. Messiah, never bashful about having her say, used the opportunity to let her views and those of her party be known.
The words were shocking to many and the backlash has been intense.
Instead of owning the words that escaped from her mouth and reflecting on the obvious poor choice, MP Messiah, has decided to do what many politicians and spin doctors do – blame the media for reporting what was said with claims of misquoting, misrepresentation and bias. In light of this, we are going to set the record straight so that the xenophobia that is creeping into our peaceful society can hopefully stop.
First, to begin, Ms. Messiah refers to a discussion, however, there was no real discussion. The host introduced the topic of crime by saying, “Your concerns? The concerns of your party? Have you had any meetings of the minds within your party to discuss this issue? Any ideas on how it can be addressed?” and then the MP spoke, uninterrupted, for almost seven minutes before time was up and the host brought the entire interview to a close. We make mention of that for all the orange kool-aid drinker that believe that she was led-on during the interview or was the victim of a ‘gotcha’ moment.
Having felt the heat of the backlash, Ms. Messiah returned to the same programme and double-downed. She sought to cast blame for the interpretation of her poor choice of words on the host and others in this media organisation. She has referred to our coverage of her comments as “intellectual dishonesty”. The younger people in the audience will be thumbing “smh” in response.
So, let’s deal with the facts and Ms. Messiah’s words. The MP claims that we said that she said that “the crimes being committed in Antigua and Barbuda were being committed by non-nationals.” Hmmm! Well, let’s go to the recording. What she actually said is “Why must we live like criminals in our own country? And a majority of times, the persons who are perpetrating these crimes are not Antiguan and Barbudan citizens, because we do not live like that. It is not our culture.”
Ms. Messiah also tried to adjust the timeline of her comments stating that towards the end she expressed opinions on the rights of a sovereign government to protect its borders. But that is not how her comments unfolded. MP Messiah kicked off the commentary with talk of a foreign criminal culture and linked it to immigration. However, don’t take our word for it, let Ms. Messiah speak for herself.
She said, “We believe that what we are seeing now, and what we have been seeing for a while is an infiltration and a penetration of a foreign criminal culture which seems to be taking root in Antigua and Barbuda, which is destroying the society and which is creating an atmosphere of fear and terror among the citizens and residents of this country.”
After discussing the readiness and resources of the police and the recent kidnapping and execution style murder in Cedar Grove, she continued, “We believe that it is time to take a serious second look at our open border immigration policy which emanates from a decision of the heads of CARICOM. And, perhaps, if we begin to follow the law – we have taken a look at the immigration act and the regulations and we believe that immigration officers have certain authority and discretions in respect to when to land people here. But there seems to be a misinterpretation of the law, that says as long as you come into Antigua and Barbuda from a CARICOM territory and you are a citizen of the CARICOM territory, you are just automatically allowed, you are automatically landed. And these are things that we have to … look at more seriously.”
We are not immigration lawyers but we do know that there are some treaties and some case precedents relating to the rights of CARICOM nationals that allow them entry to our bit of paradise (and other member territories) that cannot be infringed upon by immigration officers willy-nilly. But we leave those arguments to the experts.
If you are like us then you are probably lost on this entire argument being put forth by the orange brigade. We do not know of any way to import “foreign criminal culture” other than through immigration (i.e. non-nationals coming to our shores). It is not something you can buy on Amazon and FedEx into the country. And, it is not a self-help video on YouTube entitled “DIY – Foreign Criminal Culture”. So, let us be intellectually honest with the people and dismiss this charade that there was no attempt to associate “foreign criminal culture” with non-nationals by Ms. Messiah.
Whether Ms. Messiah’s comments were a true reflection of the good lady and her party or simply a poor choice of words when caught up in the moment, it was a poor choice of words that should be acknowledged and rejected. We would like to think that everyone will acknowledge that immigration and non-nationals have helped build this nation and we will not follow others who want to build walls on our borders. After all, just think of it for a moment, how would we get to the beach – take a ladder?
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