Op-Ed: Kingston, Washington and the Way Forward for Jamaica


By David P Rowe
Op-Ed Contributor

The first priority for Jamaica’s Portia Simpson-Miller administration should be to consolidate and improve its bilateral relationship with the United States. It should be made clear at the highest levels that Jamaica intends to comply with its treaty obligations. A treaty is not only a law but is also a contract between nations and must if possible be so construed to give full force and effect to all its parts, as seen in United States vs. Reid. The Vienna Convention and the Law of Treaties provide that the text of a treaty is established as authentic and definitive and a state is “obliged to refrain from acts which would defeat the object and purpose of a treaty.”

The administration is graced with excellent lawyers with superb reputations. Jamaica will never again need to descend to the quagmire of deliberate violations of international law.

International investors will first look at our legal system and its international auspices before they make critical, hard-money decisions.

Jamaica must seek to comply with its international obligations before it will regain the confidence of American, Canadian, and British international partners. True independence infers a maturity and a legal will to enforce the Rule of Law by both Parliamentary actors and their professional staffs.

Meticulous observation of protocol matters is of grave importance and I look forward to our professional diplomats playing a significant role in bilateral matters. The United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act should be read and understood by all of our foreign policy administrators.

There is no doubt that Jamaica has a labour force with great potential, which can be utilized by investors from abroad. They will not come to Jamaica if they anticipate strikes, theft, extortion and general bad behavior. There is a reason why the Chinese frequently will bring their own skilled labour to Jamaica rather than rely on our skilled labour.

We must achieve a social compact with our workers, which will guarantee foreign investors a reasonable profit and an incident-free investment experience. Without this foreign investment and economic growth, we will be doomed.

The freedom of every Jamaican individual is extremely important. There are times, however, when these freedoms have to take second place. When the society is under attack internally by elements that are focused upon destroying it and our basic freedoms, then it is important that the society have the power to detain these individuals and subject them to expedited trial so that the society can protect itself from economic and social distress.

In Jamaica, when a person is suspected of being either a gang leader or terrorist responsible for murder for hire, distribution of guns or alien trafficking, then Jamaica must use its emergency powers to arrest him rapidly and subject him to rapid trial. In these extreme cases, natural justice should take a secondary place to national security. It is the duty of a responsible state to protect the lives of ordinary Jamaican people so that the economy and well-being of the country are not violated.

Tourism, foreign investment, formative education and medical services cannot thrive in a society under siege from gangland murderers. As Lord Gardiner reflected in his 1975 Northern Ireland report, “where freedoms conflict, the state has a duty to protect those in need of protection.”

It is obvious that in some of our inner city neighborhoods children and impressionable young people are being indoctrinated into machete and gun violence, frequently for cocaine-related profits. It is now time for comprehensive measures to halt these activities.

The Diaspora and Jamaica’s traditional allies will expand their commitment to Jamaica once Jamaica and Jamaicans exercise political will to create a favorable economic environment.

David P Rowe is an attorney in Florida and Jamaica and a professor of law at the University of Miami School of Law.

Note: the opinions expressed in Caribbean Journal op-eds are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Caribbean Journal.