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Boggling the mind


The front page story of the September 3 edition of the News newspaper captioned “Teacher harassed, strip-searched at airport” raises many concerns and rings alarm bells. It is something not to be taken lightly and calls for us to speak out.
What was reported was Cammie Francis’ version of the humiliation she suffered at the E.T Joshua airport. What was meted out to this young lady is inexplicable. {{more}}The police had better come up with serious answers, for what was described by Mrs. Francis baffles the imagination. Why should a young lady, a teacher, with as far as I know, no criminal record have to undergo such treatment? And for what! A Grenadian passport, it seems. This makes absolutely no sense. Why would the young lady want to steal a Grenadian passport? If we are to assume that the motive was to use the American visa that I presume was in the passport, then Francis informs us that she has a valid American visa.
For what was the police looking? And why were those measures taken? Francis, we are told, was stripped-searched, asked to take off her underwear, shoes and socks. A passport hidden in her underwear! Some kind of passport that! Why was Francis the only person searched? One would assume that before embarking on a particular form of action, the police/immigration officer (s) would have thought it through. If they did then something is missing from the story or someone is mad. One can understand the trauma the young lady went through. A month away from home, eager to resume one’s routine and to reconnect with family and friends! The joy would have been utterly shattered by the humiliation.
An apology, at least, is needed. The police, of course, have certain powers but these are not to be used willy-nilly, and especially in a situation where the victim becomes totally humiliated and traumatised. I hope this is not the end of the story and that some explanation is given to justify the line of action taken. To invade the privacy of a person in this way the police should have strong grounds to believe that the individual was guilty of some serious offence. For this to be happening in the country of one’s birth is an equally serious matter. We might even call this a comedy of errors, but it is certainly not a comedy. Is it also really a case of error?

Grenada and Ivan  

I have seen many photographs demonstrating the effect of Hurricane Ivan on Grenada. I have listened to numerous reports, too. The scope of this is taxing to the imagination, for the major question is how and where do you start the reconstruction process? Persons have to be fed; the rebuilding of infrastructure has to take place. With the majority of houses/buildings damaged, how do you cope?
One of the first reports I heard from Grenada was to the effect that the police were asking to be housed in the Fish market. Schools and other places used as emergency centres were damaged. How and where do you store material for distribution to particular areas? The police who have a mammoth task in controlling and ending the looting would also have had their own homes damaged and need to attend to that. If you had sufficient money and material at your command to repair your building, from where are you going to get workers? With so many homes and lives destroyed, with no electricity and telephone service for most people, how do you communicate and distribute relief supplies, especially to remote areas and in light of a curfew? Some of these problems will gradually sort themselves out but will create new ones in the process. People have also to exist in the short term. To get them to fully participate in the reconstruction process some of their basic needs have to be met urgently.
I listened to Sir James Mitchell’s account of his visit to Grenada and was impressed with the way in which he managed to put things in perspective. One matter he raised that reflected my own thinking had to do with emergency centres. In fact, in my last article I raised the issue but never developed it. We seem somehow to believe that churches, schools and community centres are natural and suitable places to be used as emergency shelters.
Obviously some checks would have been done at the start of the hurricane season but what are the requirements to justify their listing as emergency centres? The answer probably lies in their ready availability and the absence of alternative structures. I am suggesting that when we build schools, community centres and other public buildings we take into account the reality of an annual hurricane season. Furthermore, Grenada would be able to teach us some important lessons. Why in all of this destruction were some buildings able to stand up with relatively little damage? Our Caribbean people would do well to undertake this exercise.
The West Indies Cricket Board is of the view that Grenada might still be able to host its cricket World Cup matches. This is less than three years away and obviously Grenada would like to use it to get a much needed boost, but it is likely to take years before that country is on its feet again and priority will have to be given to infrastructure, restoring public buildings, utilities, private homes and dealing with the fallout from the destruction of its nutmeg industry.
Regardless of how much Grenadians love their cricket there are certain realities that have to be taken into account and it becomes also a matter of priorities. The question which must be exercising the thinking of the government even while certain basic and essential things are being attended to, is where and how you start the rebuilding process? Once the emergency matters are attended to and this itself is likely to be a huge job, the real long term rebuilding, especially with the nutmeg trees destroyed, is an undertaking whose magnitude suggests a very long term effort.
In all of this I am always concerned about lessons. Certainly Grenada has demonstrated how ill-prepared we as a people were.