The fallout from last week’s visit by British Prime Minister David Cameron to Jamaica continued this week with a flaming row over whether Jamaican authorities had in fact agreed to allow Britain to dump hundreds of Jamaican convicts serving time in British jails into a facility to be built on the island specifically for that purpose.
Cameron had already angered Jamaicans by dismissing calls for Britain to compensate Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean for using millions of Black people as unpaid slaves on sugar and other plantations during the genocidal Trans Atlantic slave trade. In fact, he basically told them to forget all about it and focus on today’s events and the future.
His level of flippancy and British arrogance has sparked an ongoing row in Jamaica as to whether authorities had exerted enough pressure on him to say something positive even though Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller said publicly said she had indeed raised the issue with him during formal meetings.
Now the latest flare up has much to do with pressure London is exerting on Kingston to give in to already well developed British plans to donate about $40M to Jamaica to build a spanking new facility to house about 700 Jamaicans serving time for various offenses in the United Kingdom.
Cameron’s administration has complained about the cost of maintaining such a large posse of criminals from the island and thinks it best to send them home to serve time once they have about three years left on jail time.
Since his departure, there has been a back and forth about whether Jamaica had in fact agreed to both take the money to build the prison and to welcome, house and accept people who had not committed any crime on Jamaican soil.
Official websites in the UK are reporting that Kingston has bowed to the wishes and demands of Cameron but Jamaican Justice Minister Peter Bunting says no such deal has been signed, not even a memorandum of understanding.
“This is not the case. The fact is that we have agreed to commence a process, which may, or may not, result in a prisoner-transfer agreement. We have brought these inaccuracies to the attention of the British High Commission locally and trust that it will be corrected. We have not signed a prisoner-transfer agreement (PTA). The British government put an offer on the table, which is contingent upon our signing a prisoner-transfer agreement. We have said to them that in order to sign a prisoner-transfer agreement we first have to have legislation that will allow it.”
Of the 700 in prison in England, about 300 are ready for transfer if only there was an agreement to allow for this.
Opposition Leader and former Prime Minister Andrew Holness as well as legislator Daryl Vaz asked in parliament this week for a clear and unequivocal guarantee from government that no such deal will go through bearing in mind general elections are about a year away.
“I am quite convinced, based on what I have heard, especially coming out of the mouth of the UK prime minister, that this deal is a done deal. The timing of the deal is not a good time. We have a certain event coming up,” Vaz said.
How authorities will escape the pressure Cameron has heaped on by striking first with an announcement about an agreement is unclear but the issue is fast becoming an election headache for the Simpson-Miller administration as many believe it is not telling all it knows.