Trust and respect at core of UK-Jamaica relationship, says AhmadTuesday, August 03, 2021
BY ARTHUR HALL
LAST Friday's donation of 300,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine by the Government of the United Kingdom to Jamaica underscored what the top British diplomat in the island, Asif Ahmad, has described as a “relationship based on real trust and respect” between the two countries.
Jamaica, Indonesia and Kenya were among the first countries to benefit from nine million COVID-19 vaccines which the UK plans to distribute around the world to help tackle the pandemic and Ahmad, whose four-year tour of duty in Jamaica ends this month, told the Jamaica Observer that the two countries have had a long and significant relationship.
“It is based on the fact that Jamaica makes its own decisions based on its own sovereign interests, as we do ourselves. But there is a lot of common ground,” said Ahmad.
“If you look at the way in which international organisations should work you would see that we are on the same page,” added Ahmad.
He admitted that there have been some issues in the relationship, such as those concerning the 'Windrush scandal' which surfaced in 2017 after it emerged that hundreds of Commonwealth citizens, many of them Jamaicans from the 'Windrush generation', had been wrongly detained, deported and denied legal rights.
The Windrush generation are people who travelled to the UK from Caribbean countries between 1948 and 1973. Many took up jobs in sectors affected by Britain's post-war labour shortage.
The name Windrush derives from the HMT Empire Windrush ship which took one of the first large groups of Caribbean people to the UK in 1948.
“We have had our own problems with Windrush and everything else but we have also done good work here in Jamaica with our mutually agreed development goals. It has been a very rich experience for me,” said Ahmad.
“I think the Commonwealth links are important and Jamaica has always been very active on that front. I think in terms of the way we have addressed issues — for example the challenges that we faced since we left the EU (European Union) — Jamaica was a very strong actor in renewing the trade agreement that we have with the Caribbean as a region, and so Jamaican businesses can trade on exactly the same terms with the UK as they did under the EU — and we are seeing a real appetite for that,” he said.
“We had a whole series of meetings with businesses which already deal with the UK, and it was Gary “Butch” Hendrickson who said, 'If we are not doing enough in the UK it is not because of the systems and the structures in Great Britain, it is simply because we have been slightly slow in getting our act together and expanding our warehouses and getting the shipping links going and the likes,' ” added Ahmad.
He pointed to Jamaica National Bank and Victoria Mutual, which have set up shops in the UK, and argued that they are thriving.
“And what is interesting with both of them is that their business is not just with Jamaicans or [people from the] Caribbean, they actually have more non-Caribbean customers than Caribbean ones, which is an interesting reflection of the quality of their institutions and their offer in the UK.
“Other investments have been in shipping and there is now discussion with a juice-making company in Kent, and we have also seen Tracks & Records open up the first of many operations in the UK. But COVID has had a real knock-on effect. A lot of businesses have been delayed,” declared Ahmad.
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