Despite recent pleas from CARICOM for British Prime Minister David Cameron to address the long standing issue of reparation – Cameron brushed aside the matter during his recent visit to Jamaica, refocusing the discussion on UK’s new prison plan for Jamaica.
While addressing Jamaican Parliament on Tuesday, Cameron sidestepped the issue – only noting that the “wounds of slavery run very deep.” He instead outlined an aid package for the region, with plans to allocate £25 million of its foreign aid budget to build a prison for Jamaican prosecuted in the UK to return home and serve their sentences.
“Slavery was and is abhorrent in all its forms. It has no place whatsoever in any civilized society and Britain is proud to have led the way in its abolition,” said Cameron in his address. “I acknowledge that these wounds run very deep indeed, but I do hope that as friends, who have gone through so much together since those darkest of times, we can move on from this painful legacy.”
But his stance has not gone down well with opposition Parliamentarian and ardent reparations supporter, Mike Henry. Henry, who boycotted Parliament to protest on the outskirts of Gordon House, vowed to take the matter to the International Court of Justice.
Cameron, however, focused on the UK’s £25 million plan to build a prison in Jamaica for Jamaicans sentenced in the UK to return home. More than 600 Jamaican nationals are in UK jails, but cannot be deported due to Jamaica’s poor prison conditions.
The announcement, while welcomed by some, had not gone down well with others. The youth arm of the opposition Jamaica Labour Party, Young Jamaica, has called on the Portia Simpson Miller administration to reject the plan, arguing that a maximum security prison does not serve Jamaica’s strategic development goals.
“We have taken note of Prime Minister Cameron’s insistence that British taxpayers should not…bear the costs of housing foreign criminals However, we believe it is important for him to explain who exactly qualifies as a foreign criminal. We do not…accept that a Jamaican who has lived in the UK from a young age, and who has been formed by that society, who commits crimes there, should be sent back to Jamaica to serve his/her sentence, whether in part or as a whole,” the organization said in a statement.
But National Security Minister Peter Bunting defends the deal, arguing that “I don’t believe that as an independent Jamaica for over 50 years…..we should have thousands of Jamaicans exposed to the conditions under which we keep them now.”
The new facility will accommodate up to 2,000 inmates. More than 300 existing offenders are expected to be sent back under the scheme. Jamaica is third highest among foreign countries with nationals serving prison sentences in the UK. Almost 70 percent of the Jamaicans in prison in Britain are serving sentences for violence and drug offences