Is First Caribbean Discriminating Against Garifuna Language?
There is controversy brewing tonight in Dangriga where a young woman’s job as a teller is reportedly in jeopardy after being reprimanded by her superiors for speaking her native language when greeting and transacting business with customers of the bank. News Five understands that an employee of Garifuna extraction at CIBC First Caribbean, whose name we will withhold, has tendered her resignation, following a meeting with higher-ups at the district branch. Earlier this week, prominent Garifuna activist Doctor Theodore Aranda visited our office where he gave an account of the situation involving the teller. Dr. Aranda maintains that the bank is being discriminatory in its actions to prohibit the use of Garifuna in the office place, particularly since it is the predominant tongue in Dangriga.
Dr. Theodore Aranda, Dangriga Resident
“There’s a young lady at the First Caribbean Bank who has been there and I know the young lady for quite some time. As a matter of fact, she is a role model as far as I am concerned because one of the things I used to tell that young lady when she was starting, roughly five or six years ago, that one of the things for her to do as an officer of the bank [was] to stay with the bank, stay with the business so you can learn the business and become, rise within your own atmosphere and within your own business. That’s what I’ve been telling this young lady and she has indeed come through. She started as just a lowly clerk, so to speak, a teller, but today, she is one of the higher ups in the bank. In other words, she has indeed complied and has been successful within the profession. All of a sudden now, she told me, I mean we have been informed, and she herself has told us this, that in the past she has been called into the office to be told that she should not speak Garifuna in the bank. The issue is not so much that she is speaking Garifuna or [transacting] business with the people in Garifuna so to speak, but rather when people who come in who know her they would day hello or good morning and they would say buite binafi which is good morning. And she has been called into the head office and told that she should not talk Garifuna in the bank. The issue here is basically this, if you are within a society that speaks any specific language it is to your advantage as a company that you have people there who understand, speak and are a part of the culture that you are in. That’s what I think they ought to have hired that young lady for and that’s one of the things that she does. So that she’s enhancing the company, she’s doing the job of the company, she’s drawing people to the company and for you to tell me that there is something wrong with that is not simply, absolutely contravening the ideals behind hiring competent individuals but I don’t know what the heck the bank is doing. We have spoken to the manager of the bank here in Belize City, as a matter of fact, this afternoon I called the man, Mr. Smith and Mr. Smith wants to tell us that he is going to investigate the situation. Mr. Smith is shooting a lot of crap, that’s nonsense. He knows of it.”