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Letter of the Day: Prison swap plan kowtowing to Brits

Published:Monday | October 5, 2015 | 12:00 AM


Why should reason and common sense have so fled a government that it could have thought there was political mileage to be gained from having the prime minister of one of the world's largest economic and military powers descend on our shores bearing a prison as a gift?

For as though the wave of controversy surrounding the push for reparations had not put enough of a damper on David Cameron's visit, his announcement of financial support for the construction of a prison in Jamaica to accommodate Jamaicans serving time in British prisons as distasteful as it is tactless. It was a true slap in the face.

It is often said that all politics is local. And we in Jamaica should not be unmindful of this. The exercise of global diplomacy and visits by Barack Obama and Cameron have more to do with geopolitical exigencies, statecraft and the pursuit of agendas.

To put it bluntly, while hugs and kisses are important in both international and local politics, Cameron's visit to Jamaica was more about what was in it for the people to whom he is ultimately accountable - the British. China's manoeuvres of late in Latin America and the Caribbean have attracted the attention of many.

While we welcome their renewed interest in the region, we must understand that the core features of global diplomacy remain the same. States act on the basis of their strategic interests. Our Government should ensure that it negotiates deals and forge agreements with bilateral partners that see appropriate benefits flowing to us.

We have no compelling reason to believe that the Government did all it could to ensure that Britain does not stand to benefit in a vastly disproportionate way than Jamaica from this sordid prison deal.

The new prison Cameron came to announce is to be seen as nothing but a clever transfer of a British problem to Jamaica and its taxpayers.

Cameron came here to solve a problem with which his Government and British taxpayers are grappling. In like manner, our Government must seek to solve our problems and ease the enormous burdens Jamaican taxpayers bear.

The Simpson Miller administration owes it to the people of Jamaica to focus on those issues that are of interest to Jamaicans: growing the economy and reducing the hardships we endure. Our top priorities are education, crime management, education and health care.

Jamaicans are clamouring for meaningful and sustainable jobs at this time. They are clamouring for opportunities at a better life. They want reparations for slavery, not a prison!


Aide to Opposition Leader Andrew Holness