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Cameron blasted over £25 million Jamaican prison plan

UNPOPULAR DEAL: Portia Simpson Miller and David Cameron

BRITISH PLANS to build a multi million pound prison in Jamaica is a distraction from the reparations debate, according to a Voice poll.

The online poll asked the paper’s readers ‘How do you feel about David Cameron’s plans to use £25 million of the overseas aid budget to build a prison in Jamaica?’

The results showed that 58 per cent of respondents agreed that it was a distraction. However 24 per cent of those who took part welcomed the British Prime Minister’s plans.

But a further 16 per cent said that the plan was embarrassing and believed that Jamaica should not accept the money.

Adding to the widespread criticism of the prison deal, Cameron provoked widespread anger when he appealed to the Jamaican parliament to “move on” from the painful legacy of slavery. His comments coincided with the start of Britain’s Black History Month.

Cameron’s historic visit to the Caribbean island – the first British PM to visit in 14 years – has been marred by controversy.

Reacting to the proposal Diane Abbott, the new shadow secretary of state for international development, blasted it as wrong in “principle and in practice”.

She said: “I do not believe aid money should be spent on building prisons merely as an adjunct to the British criminal justice system.”

After nearly a decade of negotiations, the controversial deal would see Britain front 40 per cent of the cost to build a new 1,500-bed jail where Jamaican nationals serving sentences in British prisons would be transferred without consent.

Jamaican nationals account for the third-largest population of foreign nationals in UK prisons, with seven in 10 serving sentences related to drugs or violence.

“If David Cameron is really interested in seeing a decrease in the levels of criminality in Jamaica he should be investing more in education projects, and helping to promote local agriculture and manufacturing, which would provide legal employment for young Jamaicans,” Abbott argued.

CRITIC: Diane Abbott (right): Voice reader poll on the issue

She described the plan as a “superficial public relations initiative that does not begin to deal with underlying issues” and warned that Britain was opening itself up to human rights challenges from prisoners if deported against their will.

Jamaica’s former Prime Minister Bruce Golding accused the British government of attempting to ‘bully’ Jamaican taxpayers into paying the price for what he believes is Britain’s responsibility.

Along with the plans to repatriate some 300 Jamaicans by 2020, the Jamaican government will be expected to fund the remaining 60 per cent of the building costs (£37.5m).

Cameron has also been accused of historic amnesia by reparation campaigners who have called for a debate on restorative justice and an acknowledgment of the benefits derived by Britain from the transatlantic slave trade.

Jamaica’s PM Portia Simpson-Miller said while she was “aware of the obvious sensitivities" Jamaica was “involved in a process under the auspices of the Caribbean Community [CARICOM] to engage the UK on the matter” of reparations.

The cabinet office said Cameron’s visit was to “reinvigorate ties between the countries”, and included an announcement that Britain had prepared a £300m development package for the Caribbean region.

“I believe this money could help to unleash trade across the region with new roads, new bridges, and new port infrastructure to help speed up freight movements," Cameron said.

He said the development, to be funded in the Caribbean, could also benefit British businesses that have knowledge and expertise in infrastructure improvements.

The PM also vowed to ensure that Jamaica gets some of the $9 billion [USD] pledged by the UK for climate change over the next five years.


Sylbourne Sydial, director of Facilitators for a Better Jamaica (FFBJ).

LET’S PUT things in perspective: no British prime minister can come to Jamaica, on Jamaican soil, and make such a deal without there first being some sort of arrangement with its government. The proposal I believe emanated from discussions with the Jamaican community as a way to balance the debate because some persons have family in prison in the UK and they can’t see them so, therefore, there’s a historical factor to it. I agree saying ‘move on’ was a PR disaster. It wasn’t the proper thing to say without supporting it with a word of apology, for example, or something about reparations. He could have said something like ‘we should never forget the atrocities of slavery’ but by just saying move on alone it gave the impression of ‘hey, this is a slap in the face.’ Because I know the history of the deliberation, I know who made that proposal about the prison and it wasn’t from the British, in my opinion. The Jews have moved on…they got reparations; other people have moved on. I’m not going to hold my breath for reparations. I’ve got two kids and I’ve got to show them to never forget the atrocities of slavery but also remember that our history did not start there either.


Nathaniel Peat, chair of the board of Jamaicans Inspired UK.

THIS DEAL is a slap in the face, to be honest – we’re not completely happy with the fact that a prison is going to be built but also by the messages that have been coming from that particularly in British media. The investment would be better spent on preventative methods or working with these criminals when they are in the UK such as through support systems for grass roots organisations to help them reintegrate back into society better. We are in a bad situation already in Jamaica financially; lack of jobs and opportunities for many young people that are on the island, many of them can’t afford to finish university, for instance, and there needs to be better support for these institutions. They do have prisons already on the island; money should be spent to improve the current prison standards but building new prisons has never been the solution – just look at America.


Esther Stanford-Xosei, co-vice chair of the Pan-African Reparations Coalition in Europe

Prisons have a particular history in Jamaica; they were used to help subjugate the enslaved African people in Jamaica and also those who were deemed to be deviant and criminal because they refused to accept that status quo of the enslavers. While it’s right to condemn the ignorance and offensive and despicable actions of the prime minister, it is also equally the case that we must question the decision of the current government in Jamaica to accept this deal. We have to challenge our so-called governments. It really raises questions of how independent are our governments? Why is it that we have not been able to transform these archaic legacies of enslavement and ways of punishing our people? We expect more from our current government because we recognise that the previous government did not accept this deal.
It’s not a new deal. At the same time we have the government championing a CARICOM reparations strategy and on the other hand we see them being complicit in allowing this to take place, over the heads of their people.

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