Diplomacy and International Relations 2011 – Jamaica Year in Review 2011

Written by Cordella Lewis

A key incident from 2010 continued to make its impact felt diplomatically in 2011. The attempt of Jamaican soldiers to capture Christopher “Dudus” Coke, local gang leader wanted by the United States as he had been indicted on charges of operating an international drug ring, caused the deaths of 73 individuals in Tivoli Gardens on May 24, 2010. The incident resulted in the resignation of Prime Minister Bruce Golding and his replacement with Minister of Education Andrew Holness. It was also discovered later in the year that the United States’ Department of Homeland Security possesses a videotape taken by a secret spy plane during the battle of Tivoli Gardens. The tape is likely to provide more information about the actions of security forces during the incident and whether they killed members of a crime syndicate or innocent residents who were victims of house-to-house fighting. More than 500 Jamaican soldiers went into the neighborhood. The contents of the video have never been revealed to the public. In spite of earlier denials by Jamaica’s National Security Minister Dwight Nelson, Holness admitted that Jamaica made an agreement with the U.S. government to perform surveillance during security operations in Tivoli Gardens during Coke extradition process. In 2010, Daryl Vaz, who was the Information Minister at the time, also denied that Jamaica received any external help during the mission. 

Jamaica was involved with many countries around the world during 2011, creating policies and making international agreements with local implications. 

The Canadian military entered into negotiations with Jamaican authorities to create an arrangement by which the island would become a staging area for responses to natural disasters or other troubles in the Caribbean. This was another in a series of agreements between the two countries to create closer ties. The closer relationship was illustrated in the deployment of three CH-146 Griffon helicopters as back-ups for the Jamaica Defense Force. 

During an incident of racism perpetrated by students at a business school in Montreal, Anthony Morgan, a law student of Jamaican descent, filmed white students at the school wearing blackface and Jamaican colors and chanting in fake Jamaican accents about using marijuana. According to Morgan, students at Hautes Etudes Commerciales (HEC) took part in these activities during an annual sporting event traditionally held during freshmen week. School authorities issued a formal apology and initiated an investigation and sensitivity trainings to ensure that similar incidents or behavior do not occur in the future.

China’s Vice Premier Hui Liangyu and Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding met and held discussions in Kingston. Hui noted that Jamaica was the first country in the Caribbean to establish diplomatic relations with China about 30 years ago and introduced a five-point plan to further enhance the relations between two countries. Hui and Golding emphasized the need to develop stronger economic and trade links between their nations. 

Prime Minister Bruce Golding expressed his concern about Jamaicans who live in Japan and was awaiting word about them after the major earthquake and tsunami that occurred there. Golding contacted Claudia Barnes, Jamaica’s ambassador in Japan, to find out about her situation and the safety of other Jamaicans living there. He was assured that all Jamaicans had been accounted for after the disaster.

Caribbean Neighbors
Dwight Nelson, National Security Minister, expressed the government’s position that Jamaica’s border controls are too lax and announced its plans to address the issue. Nelson noted that some areas of the nation are primed for smuggling and cause concern because they allow guns and ammunition to come into the country. The government will call upon the police and the army to help control the borders. 

In March, the Jamaica Manufacturers Association (JMA) said that the Treaty of Chaquaramas is not applied evenly by the members of CARICOM. Omar Azan, president of the JMA, said the treatment of Shanique Myrie at the Guntley Adams airport in Barbados was particularly alarming. Myrie claimed she was abused by immigration officials at the airport because she is Jamaican. Azan said the incident indicated that the provisions of the Treaty are applied differently to citizens of different member states. 

Maria Angela Holguin, foreign minister of Colombia, and Jamaican foreign minister Kenneth Baugh, examined the possibility of conducting joint offshore oil explorations in the maritime area shared by the two countries. The Hydrocarbons Agency of Colombia and the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica began to perform environmental impact studies as part of the investigation. 

Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett called for a common Caribbean travel visa, which would make it easier for the region to market itself as a single tourist destination. Under Bartlett’s plan, visitors coming to Jamaica would automatically be able to move on to other Caribbean countries without having to apply for additional travel documents. Bartlett also stated his support for electronic visas, noting that the technology could make international entry arrangements safer and easier. 

The Complete Snapshot study conducted in April 2011 by Dr. Herbert Gayle discovered that Jamaicans have little or no interest in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) regional union. Only 24 percent of 200 individuals surveyed believe that Jamaica benefits from CARICOM, which has been in existence since 1973. Sixteen percent of Jamaicans surveyed believe that Jamaica loses in being part of CARICOM.

A case of alleged mistreatment of a Jamaican woman by authorities at the Barbados airport caused significant repercussions. Jamaica asked the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to consider the case, the first time the CCJ was asked to rule in a dispute between the two countries. The Foreign Ministry of Jamaica received hundreds of complaints from citizens reporting mistreatment at the hands of immigration officials in Barbados. A number of Jamaicans living in Barbados reported “inappropriate” actions taken against them at Brantley Adams International Airport. A five-member team of Jamaican officials traveled to Barbados to discuss the incident involving the Jamaican woman who claimed she was mistreated by immigration workers at the Barbados airport. Authorities in Barbados denied any wrongdoing, but Bruce Golding, Jamaica’s Prime Minister, said he was not satisfied with the explanations. Golding noted the treatment of Caribbean visitors by officials in Barbados has long been a problem.

The Foreign Minister of Jamaica and the Head of Public Health listened to explanations from Haiti’s Charge d’Affaires about an isolation measure imposed on a Jamaican national team player after discovering malaria among the players in 2007 during an epidemic on the island. The isolation measure remained in effect in 2011. Haitian officials cited lack of respect and hospitality toward its delegation, but Jamaican authorities rejected any thought of diplomatic conflict with Haiti because of what they call an “unfortunate incident.” 

A group of People’s National Party members known as “the Patriots” issued a condemnation of actions by several Haitians protestors who burned the Jamaican flag. The Patriots said the desecration of the flag is an insult to the country. The protestors were angry about what they perceived to be the poor treatment of team members who were withdrawn from the CONCACAF U17 tournament without reason.

Jamaica’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported that the government of Honduras confirmed the captain of a fishing vessel involved in a confrontation with Jamaican coast guards was killed. Dr. Kenneth Baugh, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, spoke via telephone with Mario Canahuati, Foreign Minister of Honduras to discuss the incident. Baugh expressed his regret for the death, which he noted was the result of illegal activities by the Hondurans who were illegally fishing in Jamaican waters. Discussions were held between Jamaica and Honduras at the end of January on a variety of consular issues. The constructive discussions addressed the two vessels from Honduras that remain in Jamaican custody and updated the situation of the 30 crew members from those vessels who were detained in Kingston. Ambassador Jorge Alberto Milla Reyes, Honduran ambassador, and David Alfonso Hernandez Caballero, consul general of Honduras in Houston, Texas, took part in the talks.

Jamaica lost over US$130 million due to illegal fishing in its territorial waters. The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries turned its attention to the issue after a Honduran vessel was seen near the Pedro Cays. Minister of Agriculture Dr. Christopher Tufton expressed concern about poaching and the exploitation of Jamaican resources by foreign vessels. In 2011, 42 foreign vessels were seen fishing illegally on the Pedro bank, and only three were apprehended.

The Cabinet considered easing visa requirements for Jamaican nationals in order to facilitate entry to the Cayman Islands and to encourage visits by business travelers. If the current regulations were removed, travel would be easier for some Jamaicans who visit the Caymans. Removal of the regulation would chiefly affect individuals under the age of 15 and older than 70. Ultimately, the Cayman Islands decided that children under age 15 and elderly Jamaicans over age 70 would be allowed to travel to the country without visas. This decision was reached after the governor refused to permit the premier to eliminate a visa requirement for all Jamaicans who already had United Kingdom or United State visas.

Trinidad and Tobago
Representatives of state and private sector interests in Jamaica met with their counterparts from Trinidad and Tobago to discuss a potential collaboration in regard to London’s 2012 Olympic Games. Officials included Mark Thomas, the manager of corporate communications at Jamaica Trade and Invest, and Stanley Beard, the chairman of T&T Tourism Development Company. 

The Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (DOMA) in Trinidad and Tobago are concerned about the lack of security in Jamaica’s Port of Kingston. Inadequate port security represents a threat to local importers and customs brokers, who may be used without their knowledge to ship illegal substances throughout the Caribbean region. DOMA’s concerns were emphasized by the discovery of a shipping container full of marijuana valued at $30 million at the Pt. Lisas Port. 

St. Maarten
The government of St. Maarten decided that Jamaican travelers will need visas to visit the country. Roland Duncan, Minister of Justice in St. Maarten, confirmed the visa requirement, but gave no reason for his decision. Private sources indicated that the new requirement is based on statistics showing that Jamaican and Guyanese visitors overstay their entry time in St. Maarten. The new visas will be granted only for a period of three months.

The Israel Project found that 42 percent of Jamaicans want their government to provide support to Israel, while just nine percent favored support for Palestinian interests. In October, Jamaica voted on a unilateral Palestinian effort for state recognition without the need for negotiations with Israel. A large majority of Jamaicans believe that this effort by the Palestinians only hardened the positions of extremists on both sides of the issue, making peace in the region even more difficult to obtain. 

United Kingdom
The United Kingdom announced it was ready to create over 10,000 jobs in Jamaica and enhance the island’s ability to fight crime and handle natural disasters. The UK made a stronger commitment to provide support to the Caribbean. Andrew Mitchell, secretary of state for the UK, announced a four-year plan worth 75 million pounds to help Jamaica’s 50 most volatile urban communities. 

United States
Dr. Adrian Stokes, vice president of Scotiabank’s product development and a financial analyst, stated that if there is a financial default in the United States, Jamaicans living in both countries would-be affected by the economic downturn that could occur. 

Pamela Bridgewater, United States Ambassador to Jamaica, said steps should be taken immediately to control the crime rate in the country and to eliminate obstacles to direct investment. The faster such steps are taken, the faster Jamaica can reap the rewards of greater investment. Money likes to go where there is stability, said Bridgewater. 

A diplomatic cable sent to the United States in March 2007 said that officials at the local U.S. embassy in Kingston claimed that Portia Simpson-Miller’s lack of leadership had left the People’s National Party (PNP) “in shambles.” The cable also claimed that the party appeared to be “lost at sea” and unable to accept its defeat. 

The United States Embassy in Jamaica revoked the visitor visa of Justin O’Gilvie, a former associate of Christopher “Dudus” Coke. O’Gilvie had a visitor’s visa but was not able to cancel this visa physically. Therefore, the Embassy issued a letter requesting airlines to prohibit him from boarding any flights bound for the U.S. on the basis of that visa. O’Gilvie was a partner of Coke in Incomparable Enterprises Limited. 

The United States Department of State said that Jamaica’s government is not imposing strong enough penalties on those found guilty of human trafficking. Research findings published in the 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report showed the island still at the Tier-2 level it attained in 2010. Tier-2 denotes nations with governments that do not completely comply with minimum standards imposed by the U.S. Trafficking Victims Prevention Act, but that have made progress in attempting to meet those standards. Jamaica’s punishment of up to ten years in prison for human trafficking is insufficient in comparison to punishments for other serious crimes, said the report. 

James Robertson, Jamaica’s Minister of Energy and Mining, left his cabinet position after the United States government revoked his visa. The visa revocation was imposed by what Robertson characterized as unproven allegations of wrongdoing. No comment was forthcoming from the U.S. State Department on the matter. Robertson sent a letter to Prime Minister Bruce Golding stating that Robertson would leave his office immediately. He plans to keep his seat in Parliament, however, and his position as one of four deputy heads of the Jamaica Labor Party. 

The battle is on to save the seasonal United States-Jamaica Farm Work Program, which has been in operation for 66 years. The fight arose after new regulations governing the hiring of Jamaica’s migrant workers by the United States were imposed. The new rules delay the workers’ admission to the U.S. and deny them comprehensive benefits. This seriously undermined the future of the program, since all future costs must then be paid only by growers and employers in the U.S.

About the author

Cordella Lewis