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'Are we afraid of Britain?' - Golding questions unwillingness to negotiate better prison deal

Published:Sunday | October 4, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Western Bureau:

FORMER PRIME Minister Bruce Golding says he is "uncomfortable" with the Government's acceptance of proposed arrangements by British Prime Minister David Cameron for the construction of a new prison, on terms which he says are not in Jamaica's best interest.

Speaking during the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) South West St Elizabeth Constituency Awards Banquet in Black River on Saturday night, Golding said the terms for the prison's construction in Jamaica will ultimately place a severe strain on the country's finances.

He cautioned the Government against burdening the country with responsibilities which should be borne by Britain.

"I told the British prime minister (Gordon Brown) - in 2008 I think it was - when the idea was raised, I said, 'Prime Minister, these are your prisoners, you know, not mine. Look, I can't take that on' ... . I said, 'If one of your people come to Jamaica and commit a crime and he is found guilty, we have to lock him up in our prison; we can't put him on a plane and send him back ...," Golding said.

"You mean, there is nobody in the Government who can say to the prime minister of Britain, 'Sorry, we can't work with that.' Or if we gonna work it, this is how it has to work? Where is that money to come from?" he added.

gov't taking on a burden

Golding said since the £25 million in assistance from the United Kingdom would account for approximately 40 per cent of the cost to construct the prison, Jamaica would have to find the remaining 60 per cent, as well as undertake the burden of housing and feeding the proposed 300 prisoners to be repatriated, as proposed by British Prime Minister David Cameron.

"So, why can't someone say to Prime Minister Cameron: 'All right, fine. We're glad for the £25 million. Now, how much a month you going pay for the boarding of these prisoners that you send ... ? Because they didn't commit no crime in Jamaica; they weren't convicted in Jamaica. So what you are really doing is you're contracting us to manage a prison for you, but to manage it in Jamaica. And if they enter into that kind of contract, they must pay for it. You mean we so 'fraid a dem?" he questioned.

"This is a poor country; we don't have no money; we cannot fix roads. Our prisons are overcrowded. We don't have any empty space in Tower Street or St Catherine (correctional facilities). The British government has more than 2,000 empty cells in their prisons. Britain has a whole heap of money that we don't .; Britain is a rich country; we are a poor country," he continued.

He said under Cameron's current proposal, the Government of Jamaica would have to source the funds for constructing the prison upfront and that by the time the prison is completed, the proposed allocation from the British would have already been exhausted.

"That prison is not like a two-bedroom house, you know," he said. "That (prison) going take you two and a half years to build at least. And the prime minister of Britain said he going send back dem guys here by 2020. The point I am making is that that money going have to be found fairly quickly, and I ask the question: At what expense are you going to find that money?

"Three hundred prisoners coming back to Jamaica is going to cost us 300 times $1.6 million - that is $480 million a year. And you are sending me J$900 million, so by the second year, I would be out of money. By the second year, what you are sending me would not be sufficient to take care of the 300 - if is only 300 you sending - for two years. And remember, I am not getting it in the first two years. I am getting it over four years, which means that I may have to upfront the money in the first two years. What kind of arrangement is that?"