May 20th 2008:
Transcript (as always, feel free to copy):
Stephen Sackur of BBC’s HARDtalk: I suppose there’s this intangible question of image, and Jamaica’s image arguably right now is not altogether positive. And one other aspect of that I’ll put to you…
Bruce Golding, Prime Minister of Jamaica: We have one major problem, one major problem so far as that image is concerned, our crime rate. We have to bring that down. We have to use whatever resources we can to bring that down.
Stephen Sackur: We’ve talked extensively about that, let me put another to you, and that is, Jamaica’s attitude to homosexuality. That is a problem. If you listen to human rights watch’s Rebecca shleifer, she says “homophobia in Jamaica is the worst she has ever seen.” The New York Times just ran a big story just a couple of months ago, there was a case in Mandeville, a crowd storming a house, four men having dinner were trapped and brutally assaulted because they were believed to be gay, and that was not unusual. What are you doing about it?
PM Bruce Golding: Well, we have given instruction that crimes against persons because of their sexual orientation must be pursued with the same vigor that any other crime is pursued.
Stephen Sackur: But they’re not, are they?
PM Bruce Golding: Generally speaking they are, they are now. We do have a long standing culture that is very opposed to homosexuality. I believe that that is changing, I believe there is greater acceptance now, that people have different lifestyles. That they must be-- there privacy must be respected, but it’s a process that’s going to take time.
Stephen Sackur: Are you, Prime Minister, more accepting now? Because in 2006 you were quoted in the Sunday Herald Newspaper as saying, quote “Homosexuals will find no solace in any cabinet formed by me.”
PM Bruce Golding: Well, in appointing a cabinet, a prime minister exercises judgment. He exercises--that is his exclusive responsibility. There’s no right to be in a cabinet.
Stephen Sackur: No but you just told me that you believe that Jamaica is on track to give real equality before the law to homosexuals, but you yourself have said that ‘homosexuals find no solace in any cabinet formed by me.’
PM Bruce Golding: That has nothing to do with equality before the law. People…
Stephen Sackur: Do you not have a duty to consider people on their merits, for cabinet positions, indeed in any part of government?
PM Bruce Golding: No, I consider people in terms of their ability, and the extent to which they are going to be able to exercise their functions with independence.
Stephen Sackur: You also clearly and patently consider them in terms of their sexuality.
PM Bruce Golding: No no, but that’s a decision that I make. That’s a decision that every prime minister makes. A prime minister must decide what he feels would represent to the Jamaican people. A cabinet of ministers who will be able to discharge their functions without fear, without favor, without intimidation. That’s a choice that I have made, I made that choice.
Stephen Sackur: What kind of signal does that send about Jamaica to the outside world, indeed to potential investors, the countries that look at Jamaica and…
PM Bruce Golding: One signal that it sends is that Jamaica is not going to allow values to be imposed on it from outside. We’re going to have to determine that ourselves. And we’re going to have to determine to what extent those values will adapt over time, to change, to change in perceptions, and to change in understanding as to how people live. But it can’t be on the basis that lobby groups, far and away from Jamaica, are going to start to define for Jamaica how it would must establish it’s standards and it’s own morals.
Stephen Sackur: Do you want to live in a Jamaica, in the future, where homosexuals can be a part of your cabinet or any cabinet?
PM Bruce Golding: I want to live in a Jamaica where persons are free to conduct their private relations. But I’m not talking about leading Jamaica in a direction where it’s own values are going to be assaulted by others. And the same…
Stephen Sackur: With respect, that was not an answer to my question, let me put it to you one more time. Do you in the future, want to live in a Jamaica, where a gay man or a gay woman can be in the cabinet?
PM Bruce Golding: Sure they can be in the cabinet, not mine.
Stephen Sackur: Well they can’t be in yours.
PM Bruce Golding: Not mine.
Stephen Sackur: No, but do want--do you think…
PM Bruce Golding: Not mine.
Stephen Sackur: Do you want to live in a Jamaica where they can be and they should be, and it would be entirely natural for them to be so.
PM Bruce Golding: I do not know that that is necessarily the direction which I want my country to go.
Stephen Sackur: We talked a little bit about poverty, before we finish, do you believe, and you’ve said you can deliver on some of these security issues, other issues, can you deliver for the people in Kingston and other cities who are living in urban poverty right now, can you lift them out over the next few years?
PM Bruce Golding: It’s particularly challenging, it would be challenging in any circumstances, particularly challenging now because the global economic situation as you know, is so hostile to countries like Jamaica. What we intend to do is to amass all of the resources that we have available to us, to pull together all of the government agencies and to see on the basis of prioritizing, to see how much we can impact on those social conditions.
Stephen Sackur: Bruce Golding, thank you very much for being on HARDtalk.
PM Bruce Golding: Thank you too.