Home Letters Complaint of restriction on Indian wear at Customs
I recently passed through the Cheddi Jagan International Airport and was pulled out for “hand” inspection. For some inexplicable reason, under this regime, every time I arrive in Guyana, I am harassed at immigration and/or at customs.
If the intention of the regime is for me to end my activism against racial discrimination and political persecution, it will fail. I spent my entire life championing free and fair elections and advocating for grass roots democracy in Guyana. I am accustomed to harassment, intimidation, and physical violence; these did not stop me from struggling against the dictatorship or speaking out against bad governance being practiced by the PNC and even during the PPP Administration (although it did not directly harass me).
At CJIA, the Customs officer thoroughly went through all of my bags, and separated all of the Indian garb on one side and left the others in the luggage. She was not focused on a new pair of expensive boots, or the new sneakers, or refreshments or other items; she focused like a laser on the Indian wear. She ripped open the see-through plastic bags containing the Indian ethnic wear. These were brought to donate to the poor, as I would normally do whenever I come to Guyana.
The Customs officer said I had to pay duty on the Indian garb. She informed me that I’m allowed only three pieces of Indian wear. What? Unheard of! How would she determine cost to levy duty? She said I had nine pieces; the truth is I had ten pieces with a total value of less than US, which I bought on a recent trip to India. Whenever I visit India, I bring back gifts for the less fortunate in Guyana.
If someone visits Guyana for an Indian cultural event, he or she can’t bring more than three ethnic wear is what the officer is saying. That is the instruction from Finance Minister Jordan and the Customs Department – not many Indian wear must be allowed in Guyana.
What next? Will there be restriction on consumption of alou, dhal, roti, channa, prasad, sirni, and other things? Do Indo-Guyanese have to go back to India? Are we going back to Burnhamism? Have Moses Nagamootoo, Khemraj Ramjattan and Charandass Persaud traded in the 11% Indians to go back to Burnhamism?
Does the restriction of three traditional garbs also apply to African wear? David Hinds, Kwayana, Ogunseye, Eric Phillips, Clive Thomas, etc. wear traditional African garbs. Are restrictions placed on how many pieces they can bring into Guyana? Do they support this restriction on Indian wear?
I do not know if it is now de facto government policy to restrict how much Indian clothing a person can have or wear, but I call on Indian organisations to take note and voice their strong objection to this policy of three duty-free Indian wear. Guyanese Customs Department and/or Government cannot impose a limit on people’s choice of ethnic clothing. Whites don’t do it in North America and Europe.
The PNC-led government must cease and desist from this policy. And the government also needs to stop giving instructions to harass political activists and having the special branch trail (and spy on) opposition figures. Those were the hallmarks of Burnhamism, and the evidence is very strong that we are returning to that period.
I should note, however, that not even during the height of the PNC ethnic dictatorship did Burnham put restrictions on Indian ethnic wear, although importation of Indian garb was almost impossible because he refused to authorize foreign exchange to bring in traditional Indian garments. But there were restrictions on food imports relating to the Indian cultural and religious diet.
Dr Vishnu Bisram