Wed | Sep 20, 2017

Andrew Holness administration rejects UK prison deal

Published:Friday | January 13, 2017 | 1:48 AM
In this September 30, 2015 file photo, then Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller introduces then Opposition Leader Andrew Holness to David Cameron, then prime minister of the United Kingdom, on his arrival to the island.

Jovan Johnson, Parliamentary Reporter

The Andrew Holness administration has rejected the $5.5 billion offer of the United Kingdom (UK) to help build a modern prison in Jamaica.

Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister Kamina Johnson Smith made the announcement in the Senate this morning, ending almost six months of wait for the answer.

She said the terms of the offer "were not beneficial to Jamaica as a whole." She did not state exactly the unfavourable terms.

She also declined to answer questions from Opposition Senator Lambert Brown, who tabled the questions on whether negotiations are underway to get favourable terms.

"The matter is closed at this time," she said.

Leader of Opposition Business Mark Golding also could not get an answer on when the offer was rejected.

Johnson Smith said the questions, among others, were not appropriate and cited national security concerns.

However, she said the questions could be sent to the security ministry.

"Transparency, where is it?" Brown fired at the Government side. Johnson Smith later accused the Opposition of "grandstanding".

The issue is sensitive for the prime minister because, while leading the opposition last year, he told then British Prime Minister David Cameron, who announced the deal, that the money would be better spent on education.

A known condition of the deal included the transfer of 300 Jamaican prisoners in British jails to complete their sentences in Jamaica. The UK's $5.5 billion for the 1,500-bed facility would only be 40 per cent of the cost. Jamaica would have to find the rest.

Public Defender Arlene Harrison-Henry has said current prison conditions are below minimum constitutional requirements.