ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Leaders of Antigua & Barbuda have been warned that they would be “playing a nasty game” should they seek to call the bluff of British Prime Minister David Cameron who is threatening to withhold aid from “anti-gay” nations.
The caution comes from the Executive Director of the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC) Ian McKnight.
Cameron issued the ultimatum after raising concern with some of the states that still have legislation banning homosexuality during the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting that ended yesterday in Perth, Australia. He said those receiving UK aid should “adhere to proper human rights.”
Attorney General Justin Simon has said the “matter will be discussed by Cabinet when the prime minister returns since he was in Australia and his take on this would guide our position.”
But, in the meantime, and weeks after the AG told the US that it should not seek to impose its beliefs on other countries over the same matter, he has sent the same message to Britain.
Simon, however, does not believe the threat is directed at this country “but to those African countries which have discriminatory laws in terms of homosexuals and which Britain continues to assist with aid.” And if it is, said Simon, “I am not aware that there is that level of aid coming.”
It is this attitude that has prompted McKnight to caution “that turning a blind and haughty eye to the looming problem of withheld aid, will erode the Caribbean’s gains over the last 10 years in reducing deaths from the disease (AIDS) through access to anti-retroviral treatments.”
The CVC executive director said he could not quantify how much money for the drugs and other paraphernalia came directly from Britain for the fight against HIV and AIDS, but he insisted that the contribution to the Global Fund is significant.
“When they pull that out I would say at least 90 per cent of what it cost our countries to provide free treatment will be gone. Most of our countries do not have the local domestic money to foot this bill,” McKnight said.
So while he lauds Cameron’s efforts to bring attention to the continued discrimination against homosexuals, McKnight said he is conscious of the retrograde effect of withholding funds, and is hoping Britain will consider another tactic to bring about reform.
Meantime, the attorney general said Cameron has conceded “he cannot expect change overnight.”
Forty-one of the 54 Commonwealth countries have laws banning homosexuality.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)