THREE years after it relinquished its hold on all but 100 acres of Jamaican land leased under the Bases-for-Destoyers deal with the United Kingdom, the United States gave up its rights to Portland Ridge, Clarendon.
The headline of a local newspaper clipping, dated March 21, 1964, summed it up thus: 'US gives up last defence area here'.
"There is now no longer any defence area reserved to the United States in Jamaican territory," the article said.
"The legacy of the Churchill-Roosevelt agreement during the last war which gave the United Kingdom 50 US destroyers and the United States a string of military and naval bases in the West Indies came to a final end this week, so far as Jamaica is concerned," it continued.
The news should lay to rest concerns from members of the general public that the US has rights to sections of the island, which arose after it emerged that the Government of Jamaica was considering putting a trans-shipment port on Goat Islands, as per a proposal from the Chinese Government.
Last week Monday, the Jamaica Observer reported from a press release issued by the Federal Information Service housed in Port-of-Spain Trinidad, the capital of the now dissolved West Indies Federation. Dated January 1961, the release said the US had agreed unconditionally to release to the Government of Jamaica all the areas totalling over 23,000 acres which were leased to it in 1941, except for a small parcel of 100 acres, part of Portland Ridge.
A newspaper report published a month later (February 11, 1961) suggested that the duration of the hold on that 100 acres was to be for a period of 17 years, subject to defence needs. But, according to the 1964 article, the US opted out of the agreement prematurely.
The Observer obtained an electronic scan of the clipping from the National Library of Jamaica on Wednesday. Below is the exact transcript except for the last two paragraphs which were omitted because they were repetitive:
"There is now no longer any defence area reserved to the United States in Jamaican territory. The legacy of the Churchill-Roosevelt agreement during the last war which gave the United Kingdom 50 US destroyers and the United States a string of military and naval bases in the West Indies came to a final end this week, so far as Jamaica is concerned.
In a note to the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Sir Alexander Bustamante, on Thursday Mr Boris H Klosson, Chargé d'Affaires of the United States Embassy signified his Government's relinquishment of rights to a defence area in Jamaica located at Portland Ridge.
This area, not exactly stipulated but was expected to be in the vicinity of 100 acres more or less, was reserved to the United States under the terms of the agreement signed in 1961 between the Jamaican Government and the United States by which the United States relinquished its rights over Vernamfield, Goat Island and all other areas which she had occupied in Jamaica during and for some time after World War II under the 99-year lease.
It was stated at that time that the United States would use the area, not for military purposes as such, but for the establishment of a long range navigational communications station in connection with a programme known as LORAN. The United States has not, however, used the area for this purpose and recently, the Jamaican Government, with the intention of having this matter clarified in view of its plans for agricultural and animal husbandry development programmes in the Portland Ridge-Goat Island area, requested the United States Government to define specifically the defence area actually required.
The official announcement made yesterday on the matter states:
The United States Government has relinquished its rights to a defence area in Jamaica located in the Jackson Bay-Portland Ridge region. These rights had been acquired under an agreement of February 10, 1961, between the United States and the Federation of the West Indies, and Jamaica.
The American decision to relinquish the rights was formally communicated to the Government of Jamaica on March 19 in a letter to the Prime Minister the Rt Hon Sir Alexander Bustamante, from the American Charge d'Affaires ad interim Boris H Klosson."