UK to push Jamaica on LGBT rights
British High Commissioner to Jamaica Asif Anwar Ahmadaddressing journalists yesterday.

The British Government will be pushing for changes to the treatment of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community in Jamaica as part of its efforts to promote shared values with regional states.

Outlining the United Kingdom's Strategy for the Caribbean, its six Overeseas Territories in the region and Bermuda up to 2025, British High Commissioner to Jamaica Asif Anwar Ahmad yesterday told journalists that the strategy has three pillars partners on values, partners on prosperity, and partners on protecting people.

According to Ahmad, the strategy calls for increased support for the region on the UK's priorities which include good governance, human rights and democracy, including issues such as the death penalty and LGBT rights.

He noted that Jamaica already scores high in areas such as press freedom, democracy and freedom of religion, but said the UK will be pushing on other areas including shared positions in international fora.

“We have no expectation that Jamaica will be with us 100 per cent of the time but we want to have that conversation and say, 'you may have a problem with supporting us on some Russian resolution because you have Russian investments but we would ask you which have more weight right now the chemical poisoning of British citizens or whether more [Russian] tourists come to Montego Bay'.

“A difficult decision for Jamaica, and we don't take it for granted, but we will have that conversation. If Jamaica votes one way we will come back again next year and say 'are you going to back us now?',” said Ahmad who was adamant that the support for Jamaica would not depend on the Government lining up behind the UK at all times.

“That would be a very immature and short-sighted way of dealing, and also don't forget that diplomacy is a two-sided thing. Jamaica would have a list of things it wants the UK to do and we may not always agree,” added Ahmad.

He accepted that there would be Jamaican interests also at play and argued that where the two countries' interests align that would be good, but where they are not the relationship would continue with possibly one major exception the death penalty.

“I cannot imagine a scenario with Jamaica where we say if you don't support us on this then our [support] programmes will come to an end, but if Jamaica resumes executions, which is equally unlikely, then we would have to have a very difficult conversation,” Ahmad said.

The high commissioner warned that if Jamaica was to resume carrying out the death penalty British support for the island's security forces would have to stop because it could not accept helping to solve a crime and someone was to be hanged for it.

“I cannot imagine a day when it would be our way or the highway. It is just simply not possible to have that conversation. We have too much respect for Jamaica and Jamaica has its own credential in international fora,” declared Ahmad.

He underscored that as partners on prosperity the UK will strengthen trade with key Caribbean partners while supporting growth and resilience to economic shocks, natural disasters and climate change.

As partners on crime, the UK will work with regional states to develop the capability to respond to natural disasters, tackle serious crime and corruption, help to combat violent extremism where it emerges and prevent human trafficking, among other security concerns.

BY ARTHUR HALL Editor-at-large

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