Chairman for the 2021 Emancipation Day Programme Mark Garland did not mince words in his remarks when he declared that those who harbour the thought that foreigners bear no added value to the Turks and Caicos Islands other than to threaten their way of life are ignorant.
Speaking at the event held in the country’s capital Grand Turk, on Monday, Garland, the Deputy Director for Education, implored locals to see expatriates as partners for the development of the country, while urging expatriates to see themselves part of the country’s cornerstone for development.
“We will not get very far if we are not together. We will not get very far if we are against each other,” he insisted.
Referencing an article he said he recently read, which gave the perception that there is general xenophobia on the part of locals that expats are here to undercut them of enjoyed privileges, Garland asserted that all the snares to halt his ambition were set by his own people.
“The article suggested that there is a reluctance amongst most Turks and Caicos Islanders to embrace foreigners because there is a general belief that foreigners who come to the Turks and Caicos Islands are here to take our jobs or to deprive us from certain benefits or privileges.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I am a born Turks and Caicos Islander, and when I examine my past endeavours, I know that for every obstacle that I ever faced, for every hurdle that I had to overcome, those obstacles and those hurdles were not placed there by a foreigner…they were placed there by my very own Turks and Caicos Islanders,” he revealed, adding that he, too, was once a xenophobe, but has since flushed such toxin from his system.
“And so, the phobia that I also once had towards foreigners I now have towards my own people. Because I realize that most of the time it is not the foreigners who try to destroy us, humiliate us or disgrace us, it’s our very own people. Most of the time we pose the biggest threat to each other’s progress,” he declared.
He added: “Any Turks and Caicos Islander who says that we do not need foreigners in the Turks and Caicos Islands is ignorant. Ignorant towards the sharp decline in the indigenous population in the Turks and Caicos Islands and ignorant towards the labour market needs of the Turks and Caicos.”
Making his case as to why expatriates are added value to the Turks and Caicos Islands, Garland noted: “There are 393 teachers employed with the Turks and Caicos Islands government in public primary and secondary schools.
“Out of those 393 teachers, 145 are Turks and Caicos Islands British Overseas Territory Citizens. This means that approximately 65 percent of teachers employed in the Turks and Caicos Islands Government are foreigners.
“And if those foreign teachers decide to return to their native homes or decide to go to some other countries for employment, their absence would cripple our education system. And so, we need foreigners.”
He noted, however, that the Turks and Caicos Islands does not need those that come illegally, operate illegal jitneys or construct illegal shacks and other structures that would diminish the beauty and value of the country.
He also said that these islands do not need those who: “…Come to the Turks and Caicos Islands with the mentality that they are more knowledgeable, competent and more civilized than we are. That kind of mentality will cause the native people of this country to resent you. And it would not produce the kind of unity that is needed to achieve the kind of developmental of the Turks and Caicos Islands.”
He further noted: “And so, to the foreigners who are on their way to the Turks and Caicos Islands, and to the ones who are living among us, let me make myself abundantly clear, this is your home away from home.
“As long as you reside in the Turks and Caicos Islands you are a part of us. This is what unity is all about. And so, you are also responsible for the development and progress of this country.
“We expect nothing less than the same level of patriotism, interest and goodwill which you would have given to your own country prior to your arrival.”
He said the Emancipation theme for this year’s celebration: “In Unity There Is Freedom,” was not only timely but appropriate to the current climate.
“Because if there was ever a time when we, as Turks and Caicos Islanders need to unite that time is now. If there ever a time that we, as Caribbean People need to unite, that time is now. If there was ever a time when the world needs to unite, that time is now.
“And so, as we celebrate Emancipation Day 2021, under the theme “In Unity there Is Freedom, let us as Turks and Caicos Islanders make an extra effort to unite with each other and subsequently unite with the foreigners who are living among us.
“Let us recognize the fact that unity was required in order for slavery to be abolished. And unity will be required for us to progress as a people and advance as a nation,” he beseeched.