Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Proving My Identity, Again.

I went to the Licensing Authority to get a driver's permit. I wanted one for 12 months. I offered my US driver's licence. OK. I offered to pay by check. The lady hesitated. "Do you have a Barbados ID card?" I told her I had the card issued to me by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I started to explain further, she cut her eye. I stopped and started again. She cut her eye again and interrupted me. I told her "Do not interrupt me. I'm explaining something and if you misunderstand it will be a problem." She cut her eye again. Third strike. She went to talk to a supervisor and then came back. I filled in the check and added the number from the card, as she had told me to. I asked to speak to her supervisor. I retold the recent events. The young lady cut her eye again. I said to the lady "Did I misrepresent?" She said I had. I asked how. She said nothing. I asked again. Again nothing. I looked at the supervisor. The supervisor looked at her staff. The lady said that we had each interrupted the other. I immediately apologized for my interruption. She folded her arms. I mentioned the Minister's name. She sat up straight. I said that should not have been necessary. Perhaps, I should give the lady credit for knowing the name of her Minister. I am a customer. "You are here to provide a service and help me, not to give me cut eye." I left. Maybe she thought that Americans do not know cut eye. But, I'm not American.

I know that the dysfunction is rife. My wife, myself, all her foreign-appointed staff, a raft of other people here working for international organizations, have a special ID card issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is supposed to act as our national ID card. It never does, without some problems. I usually use my US driver's licence or one of my passports (but carrying those around all the time is not to my liking).

Being a full scale diplomat is clear in most cases, especially if you have an ambassador level red UN passport. Being a regular private citizen is also usually clear. But being a sort of quasi-diplomat is really weird. I used to have a car with "head of mission" plates: road blocks? Sorry, stop? I don't think so. I had a regular licence plate: road block? Yes, officer. In Barbados, some institutions have special diplomatic plates, but I have never seen "head of mission" plates; there is a one-brand CD plate. I carry three passports: 2 national (Jamaican [only honorary consular facility], British [full-fledged High Commission support]; one for the UN (laissez passer; UN umbrella coverage). The UN document is supposed to be used to get past most awkward border controls and especially if it means having a stamp in the a national passport that may cause future problems, like from Libya or Israel. When you do international travel for a living these things matter. International organizations try to anticipate and protect.

I've gone through the ID hoop so many times now I could play both sides. Clearly the Ministry of Foreign Affairs sees no need to inform other agencies of the arrangements they have made. They are domestic. Fortunately, I have met some really nice and helpful Bajans who know a dumb thing when they see it. So, I have not had problems getting my phones and all other things where foreigners are supposed to pay a deposit before proceeding. I guess nationals don't disappear. Cha! You should see how the planes are full of Bajans heading to New York City.

So, I have to make a plea to our overseeing representative from the UN. Please get things strengthened out. Patience is a virtue and I have lots of it. But, everyone has a breaking point.


Cutters said...

This one is really funny! I was talking to a colleague yesterday who has been in Barbados for almost two years. So I asked how he was doing and he said he was still trying to sort out some immigration issues. Bein naturally curious I asked him to explain what kind of immigration problems he could be having after two years and being gainfully employed at one of teh premier institutions in the country. He explained that although he was a holder of a Trinidadian passport he was actually born in Britain so the Barbadian immigration authorities have been telling him that he is a Trini by descent and as such needs to get a document from Trinnidad that says he is actually Trinidadian. H has given them his TRINIDADIAN passport. They have indicated that this does not constitute sufficient proof of his Trinidadian identity so he needs to get a national id card or something else.
Needless to say when he goes back to the Trini authorities now for the 4th time or so, they are beyond flabergasted! Having been a consular representative for my own country I know that a passport is the highest level of identification and ownership by a country that can be given to you. But maybe I got it wrong......

Anonymous said...

Try getting your prescription filled at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Dispensary!
You need ID. That's OK BUT.. all Barbados Governments documents are not equal as I soon discovered.

Barbados Birth Certificate? LOL!
Barbados Drivers License? LOL again.

No SIR -only a Barbados National ID card will do, and maybe a valid Barbados passport.
Anything else is CHOPPED LIVER.

Barbados is so backward: so many Barbados Government institutions operate under their own quaint little 20th. Century rules and protocols, decidedly customer-UNfriendly.

There is no coherent Identification Policy that they all use. That would be far too simple!

Live some place else if you can afford to, trust me.