Sat | Aug 19, 2017

Cameron is not my friend

Published:Wednesday | November 4, 2015 | 11:00 AM
Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller greets her British counterpart David Cameron during his visit in September.

This is an open letter to British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Dear Mr Cameron,

I hear that you want to be our friend, so long as we put behind us the 180 or so years of slavery that your nation imposed on us and which contributed to the advancement in education and wealth of so many of your people, to say nothing of the effect on your economy.

You just want us to start from this point and move forward as friends. I wonder, why now? Just what is happening in your world that would cause you to want us to be friends?

As I understand it, friendship is a relationship between equals - a relationship of mutual respect and fondness. And this little nation is indeed equal to any other in so many ways. But where is the equality in our relationship?

Even assuming that we can get past the whole post-traumatic stress disorder created by our experience with the system of slavery under which your ancestors oppressed our people and raped our land, the years subsequent to the abolition of slavery were not exactly the best example of any kind of friendship.

In the first place, our people were made to pay for their freedom by continuing to work without pay in British enforced quasi-slavery for four years after the legal abolition of slavery. Your countrymen then sat by and watched, in not-so-silent support, the newly freed Jamaicans endure another century of the most awful treatment, punctuated along the way by the massacre of so many in October 1865 and the worker uprising of 1938.

Your reaction to the events of October 1865 did very little to recognise your country's continued ill-treatment of the majority of the people of this country. Indeed, one of the main features was the introduction of a police force designed to prevent the recurrence of the events of 1865. This same force was subsequently used to brutally suppress the people who, in 1938, tried to improve their miserably low wages and living conditions.

 

MOYNE COMMISSION REPORT

 

I suggest that you read the report of the Moyne Commission. It shows the extent of your friendship with us in the years following the abolition of slavery much better than I can describe here.

In the years following 1938, the awful conditions facing our people, imposed by or with your ancestors' approval and consent continued until, realising that there was very little more Britain's friendship could extract from us, you cut the economic ties that bound us to you in 1962.

You have from time to time attempted to appease your conscience with grants and aid but those have never been enough to allow us to move on or prosper. While I believe that our elected officials have also failed us in the post-1962 period, they, too, are the product of the many years of friendship.

When all is said and done, I am frankly unable to trust your offer of friendship, coming as it does in circumstances where Britain's great crime against the descendants of the majority of us has gone unremarked, unatoned and uncompensated.

No, Mr Cameron, you cannot be my friend. You will have to do a great deal more before you can earn that right.

- Lynda Mair is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.