And then they were three.
On Tuesday, the UK announced it was lifting visa requirements for Guyana, Peru and Colombia. Citizens of these nations can visit the UK for up to six months without a visa.
The British Embassy in Colombia reportedly said the move “opens doors to new business opportunities in various sectors”, while British Ambassador to Peru Gavin Cook said “many more opportunities are opening up today, from tourism and commerce to culture, academic and sporting exchange in one of the four countries of the United Kingdom: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.This is just the start of another great chapter of our fantastic bilateral relationship”.
But what about JamRock? Along with Haiti and Suriname, this leaves us as one of only three CARICOM countries with UK visa requirements firmly in place. Jamaica therefore remains on a list of approximately 100 visa-requiring countries, including Afghanistan; Bahrain; Bangladesh; Belarus; Bolivia; China (PRC); Cuba; Georgia; India; Iran; Kazakhstan; Kosovo; Kyrgyzstan; Lebanon; Mozambican; Nigeria; North Korea; Pakistan; Palestinian Authority; Russia; Rwanda; Saudi Arabia; South Africa; Syria; Turkey; and Ukraine.
Tribal Twitter trolls attached at the hip to the JLP immediately took a personal snub and blamed it on Guyana’s “suddenly” becoming an oil-rich nation, thereby insinuating (very superficially) that its new status had been bought.
But they can calm down because this is not an affront to the JLP or any Jamaican government. It has nothing to do with oil. If that were the case, other CARICOM countries, without oil or wealth of any kind, would suffer the fate of Jamaica. None of Antigua, Barbados, St. Vincent, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, Bahamas, Dominica or Grenada are “oil-rich” or rich. But they are all exempt from UK visa requirements.
On January 8, 2003, the Guardian published a report by Sarah Left titled “UK visa rules for Jamaicans”. He reported on the imposition of visa requirements on Jamaicans from midnight:
“The scheme was introduced after the Home Office found that a ‘significant’ number of visitors were either refused entry on arrival or never returned home. The Home Office said immigration officers were refusing entry to so many Jamaican nationals that legitimate visitors to the country faced delays of up to three hours at UK airports.
“At our main ports of entry in the run up to Christmas, Jamaican nationals made up around 20% of all passengers turned away,” Home Secretary David Blunkett said.
The problem was not then and is not now (except obliquely) a Jamaican government. The problem has always been the Jamaicans. Blunkett said:
“I have also become concerned about the unacceptable number of people coming to the UK as visitors and then fleeing – over 150 a month in the first half of 2002.”
“The UK has close ties with Jamaica which contribute to the richness and diversity of our country. Visas won’t stop genuine Jamaican visitors from coming to the UK, but it does mean they won’t have to spend hours at immigration control on arrival.
That was cute, but the bottom line was, and is, that any country imposing visa requirements on citizens of another country is doing so for its own security concerns and NOT because of oil. back to Guardian:
“A Home Office spokeswoman said the move had been under consideration for some time, adding that the formal decision to institute a visa scheme had been taken ‘well before Christmas’. She insisted on the fact that it was not related to crime problems.
It’s not a knee-jerk reaction to anything else that happened, and no one should consider it to be related to the Birmingham shooting, for example,” she said.
DWL! As Noah sarcastically responded to a disembodied voice claiming to be God, “Good!”
The Guardian’s not-so-subtle rebuff of this leg spinner’s “evil-one” was:
“Last year, the Deputy High Commissioner for Jamaica, Phil Sinkinson, sparked an uproar when he claimed that one in ten passengers traveling from Jamaica to the UK were a drug mule. He estimated that each flight to the UK carried around 30kg of cocaine in plastic bags which had been swallowed by passengers.
One more picture. Hold it. It’s a security concern.
The Guardian concluded:
“Around 55,600 Jamaican nationals traveled to the UK in 2001, of which 6% (3,340 passengers) were refused entry at immigration control, the Home Office said. He added that between January and June 2002, more than 1,000 Jamaican nationals fled after being granted temporary admission.
“Most worrying,” Mr Blunkett said, “was the number of children who entered the UK who were never heard of again.
“Last year British Airways recorded the arrival of 1,202 unaccompanied minors arriving at Gatwick’s North Terminal from Kingston, but only 592 returned home during the same period.”
Read these words and cry for my people. Guyana did NOT buy its removal from the visa restriction list with oil money. Neither Peru nor Colombia. If Jamaica ended up with all the oil in the world but Jamaicans’ breach of UK immigration protocols continued at this alarming rate, Jamaicans would still need UK visas.
But the JLP trolls weren’t done with their thin-skinned defense of Jamaica by demolishing Guyana. Confronted on Twitter with the list of poor CARICOM countries without visa restrictions, the response was:
“Jamaica is and always has done better on the Corruption Perceptions Index than Guyana. It’s definitely oil and gas.
Oh good? Corruption perception index? So Jamaica ranks 70th, Guyana 87th, and that should be the deciding factor? Look here ! Nations that impose visa restrictions do not care about corrupt governments as long as corruption does not infect their citizens. Thus, Argentina (ranked 96; no oil) is on the list of prohibited visas. China (ranked above Jamaica at 66; no oil) is on the visa requirement list. Oil-rich Bahrain (ranked 78) and Saudi Arabia (ranked above Jamaica at 52) are on the list of visa requirements. Colombia (tied with Guyana at 87) and Peru (105) have been oil/gas exporters for decades (Peru not so much; copper is its main export) but are only now exiting the list of compulsory visas with Guyana.
His. NOT. About. Oil!
But the JLP trolls believe it’s all a pike aimed at their beloved political party, so run away when no one is chasing them. I don’t believe this is a comment on the government, but I have a visa issue to work out with this Jamaican government and previous ones.
In 1970 Guyana became the first Caribbean nation to become a republic and abolish the Privy Council. He abandoned the imperialist Westminster electoral system for a model of proportional representation more suited to Aboriginal people. Despite this decades-long snub from its former colonial masters, the UK has lifted visa requirements for Guyanese.
Jamaica’s ties to the British Empire are stifling. Jamaicans (and Guyanese like the late great Norman Beaton) flocked to England after World War II to help resuscitate a decimated economy. Since then, all Caribbean immigrants, including Jamaicans, have been treated like garbage by England. Yet SIXTY YEARS after claiming independence from this colonial slaver, Jamaica still clings to the Privy Council as ‘Jamaica’s’ final court of appeal and King Charles as Jamaica’s monarch. Despite our sickening sycophancy, we have to beg for a visa to visit even for a day or to appear in a “Jamaican” court.
We must be stoned!
Any self-respecting government would be ashamed to put itself at the feet of an imperialist monarch again and ask a British court to tell us what Jamaican law is or should be. Any self-respecting government would have long ago renounced the British monarch, abolished the Privy Council as having the gall to call itself a Jamaican court, and replaced the colonizing Westminster system of governance. Instead, we persist as if we suffer from battered woman syndrome without trying to escape, and we kiss our attacker, even though it often disrespects us.
Jamaicans care even if their governments don’t. For example, one Haile Mika’el Cujo, a self-proclaimed fifth generation descendant of Cujo, poet, author, songwriter, political activist and complete eccentric, took the time to draft his version of a new Jamaican Constitution. He sent it (in July and a revised version in August) to all parliamentarians, including the Minister for Constitutional Affairs. All he asks is to be heard by Parliament as a Jamaican citizen with concerns and ideas about reform. He was ignored. Will his efforts on behalf of Jamaica be in vain?
Meanwhile, what has the vaunted Ministry of Constitutional Affairs achieved after nine months? Sweet Fanny Adams, I think. He did not even set up a Constitutional Reform Commission to seek broad consultation (including with Haile Mika’el) for the urgently needed restructuring of Jamaican society.
What is its real purpose?
Peace and love!
– Gordon Robinson is a lawyer. Email your comments to [email protected]