Mon | Aug 21, 2017

Recolonisation by memorandum

Published:Tuesday | October 6, 2015 | 10:39 AMGarnett Roper, Contributor
Roper ... What has made this recolonisation by memorandum so egregious is that it is taking place in a context of Britain refusing to acknowledge its role and responsibility for the chattel slavery of the African people and the underdevelopment of the Caribbean, let alone compensate people for the crimes committed against them and their forebears.

I am grateful to the Ministry of National Security for the clarification that it has provided in respect of the memorandum of understanding between the Jamaican Government and the government in the United Kingdom led by Prime Minister David Cameron concerning the gift of a new prison.  As with many of these things, the clarification, however, has left more questions than answers. 

The following are some of those questions:

1. How was the sum of 25 million pounds arrived at? Britain acknowledges that it costs them 10 million pounds per annum to keep its Jamaican inmates incarcerated in England. By paying the Jamaican Government an initial grant of 25 million pounds and a supporting grant of 5.5 million pounds, it intends to transfer 300 of those inmates to Jamaica. 

This means that in three years, the British government would have recouped the entire grant by the savings it makes from the policy decision.  By contrast, Jamaica would be saddled with by the cost of maintaining prisoners that did no wrong in our jurisdiction. Jamaican taxpayers would be saddled indefinitely with this expense and future prisoner transfers with no end in sight.

Has any thought been given to ask Britain to return, along with the inmates, the social-security contributions that these Jamaicans made while being employed in the UK? Would Britain also return any proceeds of crime confiscated by Britain and retained by the State? Is this gift of a prison intended to be some kind of game-changer as far as Jamaican penal institutions are concerned? If it is, the money is much too small. If it is not, we should decline the offer.

2. Is this a new prison or just an additional prison? There is a need for more prisons in order to reduce overcrowding and there is a need for better prison condition. Which is this intended to be? The 25 million pounds would only be nearly adequate to construct a 2,000-bed facility. 

The Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre currently houses 1,700 inmates? How will this new facility be simultaneously able to supply Jamaica’s need for more maximum-security facility space and at the same time accommodate 600 inmates currently serving time in Britain?

It should be noted that the Wolfe Commission, at the start of the 1990s, proposed a 6,000-bed facility to replace both the St Catherine District Prison and the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre, as well as the women’s prison at Fort Augustus. Is this gift of a prison a replacement for the solemn decision of the Cabinet in the wake of the Wolfe Commission, or is this just another prison? Is it a step along the way? If it is, what are the other steps?

3. Does the Jamaican Government intend to facilitate the stubborn colonial/imperial mindset of the United Kingdom by facilitating its unrepentant bent to continue to benefit from the sacrifice of other peoples?  Britain has come up with a way for Jamaica to pay its bill for crimes committed on its shores.  It did this to Australia many years ago. It now wants to do the same thing to Jamaica.

What has made this recolonisation by memorandum so egregious is that it is taking place in a context of Britain refusing to acknowledge its role and responsibility for the chattel slavery of the African people and the underdevelopment of the Caribbean, let alone compensate people for the crimes committed against them and their forebears.
In the context of Britain’s refusal to apologise for slavery and its refusal to make reparations, the gift of a prison, notwithstanding its climate-change fund and its offer of a 300-million Caribbean fund, smacks of an insult to the Jamaican people.

Garnett Roper, JP, PhD, is president of the Jamaica Theological Seminary and chairman of the Jamaica Urban Transit Company. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and glroper@hotmail.com.