Jamaica’s call for independence reflects a lack of respect displayed by Cameron and Corbyn and a widening of the relationship with the Caribbean and Britain.
This is also recognition that the British monarchy no longer reflects Caribbean countries aspirations for the future and most importantly the economic realities that the Caribbean has to face in the 21st Century.
The government's and Labour's attitude towards the Caribbean islands over the last two years has culminated with Barbados removing the Queen as Head of State on the 30th November 2016, and Jamaica through Governor Patrick Allen’s opening of parliament speech also looking to remove the Queen as the Head of State earlier this month.
In 2014 BAC asked our members whether there should be any reparations. There was a feeling that there should be reparations but how it would practically work was not clearly articulated by Caricom. The estimate of US$7.2 million seemed arbitrary and they did not seem to take into account the many people that have left the Caribbean.
David Cameron’s undiplomatic approach was clearly outlined in our February BAC article:
“David Cameron's visit to Jamaica in September 2015 exemplified breath taking arrogance and insensitivity. The offer of £25 million as contribution towards a jail that would house Jamaicans currently held in British prisons was an insult".
In March BAC wrote about the changing relationship between black British people and the monarchy.
“More recently the Honours debate has reflected the divided views in the community over the acceptance of Honours. Benjamin Zephaniah famously refused an Honour because he felt it had negative colonial connotations; however, Sir Lenny Henry was thrilled to accept a knighthood last year and very shortly afterwards was insulted by ITV News, who whilst showing a feature on Henry’s achievement mistakenly featured footage of black celebrity TV chef, Ainsley Harriott.
To create a more inclusive society perhaps we should be looking for one of the younger royals to marry someone of colour? If you are born into privilege, taking tax payers money, and into a position in which you can have an unrivalled influence over government affairs, should we not expect the royal family to reflect Britain today?”
This was written to provoke a debate about what we want the royal family to represent today. There is no doubt that the older generation feel a tremendous warmth and affinity towards the Queen, I am sure that it is the same in the Caribbean - but the younger generation has no such affinity and that needs to be recognised, understood and respected, here and in Caribbean.
The most recent act of colonial insensitivity was displayed by Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader who fails to understand that many of the islands have moved from cash crop farming, e.g. bananas, and sugar, and are dying because of Britain’s entry into the European community. Tourism now plays a huge role in these economies but Jamaica’s tourism future will be particularly affected by the opening up of Cuba. New sources of income will be needed.
In BAC’s article in April, called Nevis, we suggested ways in which Caribbean governments could start to use some of the foreign investment to help the poor.
There was general dismay at the tone of Corbyn’s remarks speaking on the BBC in April 2016, he advocated direct rule for some of the Caribbean islands:
“Corbyn argued that the government should tell administrations in places like the Cayman Islands and British Virgin Islands: “Hang on, you are a government of a British dependent territory, a crown territory, you must OBEY UK tax law, you must not become a harbour for tax avoidance and tax evasion.”
He went on to say;
“There was precedence for direct rule to be imposed, Corbyn argued, and it should be done. He said: “The point is that they are not independent territories. They are self-governing, yes, but they are British crown dependent territories”.
He sounded like a colonial admiral telling these foreign colonials to get in line or we will invade. The tone was wrong even though the Caribbean countries know the importance for transparency as much as they do in the Isle of Man where you can just as easily have faceless companies.
Corbyn’s approach neither recognises the economic predicament these countries find themselves in, or understands the threats that could potentially turn these states into narco states. If the economic tough economic austerity measures Caribbean countries have implemented in 2008, are not supported by the World Bank and the IMF, and Britain they have no choice than to support off shore banking as a major source of revenue. Proposed legalisation of marijuana in Jamaica is a reflection of the fact that many western countries are liberalising their drug programmes and where policy and economic necessity is diverging from the UK. Independence from the UK will also stop Britain meddling in the affairs and harsh realities Caribbean countries have to face in the 21st Century. Britain has not demonstrated an understanding of the difficulties of the history or respect for the people.