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Jamaica's stance on gay rights won't affect EU funding

Published:Wednesday | June 27, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

BRUSSELS, Belgium

The head of the Caribbean Division of the European Union (EU) has declared the body will not seek to tie the issue of gay and lesbian rights to the disbursement of funds to Jamaica.

John Caloghirou, who works out of the European External Action Service in Brussels, Belgium, said he did not believe such a move was something that ought to be considered.

The position is in stark contrast to that advocated by United States President Barack Obama. Last December, Obama announced that the US would use diplomatic tools, including foreign aid, to promote gay rights around the world.

But yesterday Caloghirou said, "There is no specific link in any of our programmes which says that unless you do this or that or the other in that particular area of human rights that we will not disperse or anything like that. That does not exist."

He was addressing a group of Jamaican journalists in Brussels yesterday. He said gay rights were viewed by the EU as a fundamental human right, but said the organisation would not seek to use a big stick to beat its partners into accepting its position on the matter.

"In general, in the Caribbean, democracy, human rights, the rule of law are generally respected and where we do have differences we use political dialogue to exchange views to transmit our messages and listen to the other side. We are not and we do foresee that in the Caribbean we will be confronted with the situation where there will be such a level of confrontation ... ."

Conscience vote positive

In the meantime, the EU representative said the body viewed the declaration by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller that the Parliament would have a conscience vote on the issue of the buggery law as positive.

"We are encouraged and we encourage our partners to join us in this position," he said.

Simpson Miller, during the national leadership debate ahead of the general election last year, said people should not be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation.

"The values on which the European Union is built, human rights is up there at the top. When we talk human rights we talk human rights across the board. We are not selective or restrictive and, therefore, any movement which is in the direction of safeguarding the rights of everybody, irrespective of his shape, his colour, his creed, his religion, his sexual orientation ... . For us it is positive," Caloghirou said.

daraine.luton@gleanerjm.com