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Bunting insists Chinese 'taking over' Jamaica

Friday, August 11, 2017

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KINGSTON, Jamaica – Opposition People's National Party (PNP) spokesman on national security, Peter Bunting, is insisting that there is “a form of economic colonialism by Chinese businesses operating in Jamaica”.

Bunting drew the ire of the Embassy of the People's Republic of China in Jamaica with a video entitled “Chinese Take Over?” in which he made several claims and arguments against the Chinese. The Chinese Embassy in response blasted Bunting arguments and said it was offended by the “unsubstantiated claims” in the video.

Read: China blasts Bunting over 'colonisation' video

But Bunting has doubled down on his position. In a statement this afternoon he argued that the embassy's statement confirms the “essential thrust of the episode: that the Chinese companies are state-owned enterprises against which local Jamaican contractors cannot be expected to compete effectively.”

See Bunting's full statement below:

I note the statement from the Chinese Embassy in response to the probe episode that focused on the growing dominance of Chinese companies in the local construction sector.

The Embassy's statement confirms the essential thrust of the episode - that the Chinese companies are state owned enterprises against which local Jamaican contractors cannot be expected to compete effectively.

I accept their clarification that the request for sponsorship of our “Independence” celebrations, and also (I assume) the request to design our new Parliament building, came from the current administration. Therefore, any insensitivity to the irony of having a foreign government sponsor those celebrations and design the premier symbol of our sovereignty as a people should be laid squarely at the feet of the administration.

From my perspective as a former Minister of National Security, I can say that it is highly unlikely that this type of internet current affairs programme will place Chinese nationals at risk in Jamaica, which has always been very open to people of every ethnic background. The Jamaican people are well aware of the long history of fraternal relationships between our two peoples. However we believe that the concerns that arise from the existing situation could be problematic if they remain unaddressed. The Probe episode therefore, in eliciting the response it has, has opened a pathway to the kind of dialogue to settle these issues that are beneath the surface and that will enhance the ongoing relationship between the People's Republic of China and Jamaica. We are a people accustomed to lively debate in media, and social media, around issues of social and economic interest. In fact, there were no new allegations contained in the episode of Probe, but merely a collection of concerns previously aired by either members of the Master Builders Association or indeed, Mr Clifton Yap who is Chairman of the Jamaican Institute of Architects' College of Fellows.

The allegations of Chinese convict labour did not originate with us, nor is Probe the first to repeat those allegations and raise these questions in Jamaica. There are articles in many reputable newspapers such as the Guardian newspaper in Britain that have raised similar concerns in recent years.

While I welcome this statement as a first step in the direction of transparency, there is clearly a significant cultural difference in terms of how both China and Jamaica, at a cultural level, understand and speak about transparency. I hope this marks the beginning of a necessary public debate on the appropriate level of engagement by foreign governments (or their state owned enterprises) around which a national consensus can be forged.

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