Thu | Jul 29, 2021

Jamaica strong example of democracy - British ambassador says US can learn a lot from Caribbean country

Published:Friday | January 8, 2021 | 12:11 AMLivern Barrett/Senior Staff Reporter
Asif Ahmad, British high commissioner to Jamaica.
Asif Ahmad, British high commissioner to Jamaica.

Britain’s top diplomat here held up Jamaica’s strong democratic traditions as an example to the world as he blasted United States (US) President Donald Trump for the rioting that unfolded at the US Capitol building in Washington on Wednesday.

Four people died – one woman was fatally shot by police and three died of apparent medical emergencies – and dozens more were injured after supporters loyal to Trump stormed Capitol Hill, disrupting a joint session of Congress that was convened to certify US President-elect Joe Biden’s win in the November 3, 2020 elections.

In stunning images beamed across the world, hundreds of protesters, some wearing Trump paraphernalia, briefly took over Capitol Hill, the seat of the US government and home to the Senate and House of Representatives.

Asif Ahmad, British high commissioner to Jamaica, did not mince words as he blamed Trump for the deadly fiasco.

“Without a shadow of a doubt,” Ahmad told The Gleaner yesterday, when asked if Trump was to be blamed for the brawl.

“I did not ever imagine that we would have the President of the United States actively calling demonstrators to target one of the pillars of governance … where the process of electing a successor was actively being debated,” he said during an interview at his New Kingston office.

“It is something to be utterly condemned, and we are totally dismayed to see what happened. We look to the United States very much as one of the world’s leading lights on democracy. What we saw [Wednesday] was sad”.

British High Commissioner speaks on democracy, US rioting

In contrast, the British diplomat pointed to Jamaica’s 2016 national elections, which the Jamaica Labour Party, the then parliamentary Opposition, won by a one-seat majority.

“There wasn’t a murmur from the PNP. There was no question as to what would happen the next day,” Ahmad said, making reference to the People’s National Party which held the reins of power at the time.

“That shows the way democracy is cherished, where the institutions are valued, where politicians know how to behave. That’s the right example to set.”

TACKLE IT NOW

The rioting at the US Capitol building did not escape the attention of political leaders in Jamaica, the Caribbean and the rest of the world.

In a message posted on Twitter, Jamaica’s Foreign Affairs Minister Kamina Johnson Smith said: “We note with deep concern today’s (Wednesday’s) developments in Washington, D.C.”

Opposition spokesperson on foreign affairs, Lisa Hanna, said the incident was disturbing on several fronts for those who have followed American politics.

The Organization of American States also condemned what it said was an attack against institutions in the US by protesters who disavow the recent election results in that country.

Seeking to underscore the importance of the outcry, Ahmad said, “If this is not tackled, then it will tempt the next person, not just in the United States, but in the UK and elsewhere, to say, if we can’t hang on to power the illegitimate way, we will resort to mob”.

“There are many other countries where democracy is less fragile and it gives us less credibility to stand up and say these are the ideals of democracy,” he said.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com