Last week British Prime Minister David Cameron made an announcement that we are more than a little certain rattled readers in Barbados, other parts of the region, and wider world where the former colonial rulers once exercised their power.
According to the Daily Mail, Cameron wants to get the large number of foreigners in UK prisons out of the country and back where they came from. In fact, the news report said Cameron is so strong on this stance that he is willing to commit Britain to building prisons in foreign lands where the governments would then have to look after their own people.
“Despite promises to cut the number of foreign inmates behind bars in Britain, the numbers have increased in recent years,” the Daily Mail reported.
“Ministers have struggled to remove even hardened criminals because jails abroad are overflowing or do not comply with human rights laws. By paying for building new jails or making existing ones more ‘comfortable’ so they approach British standards, it is hoped more will be repatriated.”
“When people are sent to prison in the UK we should do everything we can to make sure that if they’re foreign nationals, they are sent back to their country to serve their sentence in a foreign prison.
“And I’m taking action in government to say look, we have strong relationships with all of the countries where these people come from. Many are coming from Jamaica, many from Nigeria, many from other countries in Asia.
“We should be using all of the influence we have to sign prisoner transfer agreements with those countries. Even, if necessary, frankly helping them to build prisons in their own country so we can send the prisoners home.”
Hints of race may enter our thoughts when we realise that Jamaica and Nigeria are the examples cited. We may even have thoughts of reparations given all that Britain has taken from her colonies over the centuries is taken into consideration.
Based on the high-handed tactics of the United States in recent decades, we may even ask who will be labelled as foreign, given that there have been cases of prisons “sent back” to the Caribbean who had never been there before. Their only connection to the islands had been that their parents were born there.
If the British have sinister motives, for the sake of this article, who will choose to ignore them and focus on a lesson it provides that might be even more important to us at this time. It is simply that our leaders need to recognise the need to employ unconventional thinking.
We are perhaps more strapped for cash at the national level than at anytime in our history and on the face of it, it appears that our leaders are still not prepared to put everything on the table for discussion.
We suspect that the British have concluded that it is cheaper to underwrite the cost of a prison in Jamaica, for example, than to house the hundreds of Jamaicans now incarcerated in UK jails for the next ten or 20 years.
It is the same thinking, we believe, that would have led the British Government some weeks ago to announce that they are privatising search and rescue operations, and even providing incentives for helicopter pilots who want to shift from the Coast Guard to the private sector operators who are taking over that duty. Again, it is an economic decision.
These are just two examples of where the world is headed, and which dramatise the absolute political and governance rut in which we have been stuck for some time. They can move on matters as fundamental as housing prisoners and search and rescue, but we can’t even entertain a discussion on the Transport Board, Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation, National Conservation Commission, Urban and Rural Development Commissions and the like.
We just pray that we don’t continue to dilly-dally until we are at the point where the context and content of the discussion, as well as its time and place are determined by persons whose accents more closely resemble Cameron’s than ours.