Community leaders in the Northeast region, including elected officials, are calling for the Jamaican Government to postpone elections for the Global Jamaica Diaspora council which will replace the long standing Diaspora Advisory Board, until further discussions have been held with the community.
Immediate past President of the National Association of Jamaican and Supportive Organizations (NAJASO) Dr. Robert Clarke said if the Ministry controls the [electoral] process it will mean less autonomy for the Diaspora. “We must manage it and not have direct government control of the process."
Dr. Clarke said that the community does not want political interference in the process, pointing out that while those elected under the proposed conditions will have a seat at the table, the voice of the community will not being heard as it should. Dr. Clarke further questioned whether the Council will be an independent body if the Governmentis directly involved in electing the members of the council.
Jamaican born Rhode Island State Representative, Mrs. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell said that any person elected to Council from the Northeast region must be a true representative who will speak for the community.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs should not be holding elections to elect persons to represent us in the Diaspora. Such election must be an outgrowth of the community and must be organized and held by the community,” Ranglin-Vassell said.
She expressed concerned with the process and asked that the Ministry give consideration postponing the elections until the issue is satisfactorily addressed by members of the Northeast US region.
Councilwoman Delia Farquharson said that the government is seeking to control the process and to what end? She said that the community must have a voice in electing the persons from the region who must speak on our behalf and represent the interest of the community. Mrs. Farquharson said that dividing the community for the benefit of self is the wrong way to go."
President of the Young Caribbean Professional Network Mr. Blaine Stoddart, said that to some, diaspora participation means that we in the diaspora continue to send money, vacation, provide technical and disaster assistance, and education resources and support to Jamaica.
“The reorganization of the Diaspora is a continuation of the status quo. The reorganization may actually lead to diaspora engagement, but the process sends the wrong message. I strongly suggest that the Minister of Foreign Affairs and/or her Representatives go on a listening tour throughout the Diaspora as part of the reorganization. To implement this in a few short weeks is another slap in the Diaspora’s face,” he said.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Global Jamaica Diaspora Council is "ground breaking mechanism geared towards the facilitation of a more effective engagement between Jamaica and the Diaspora. The Council will be established in January 2020."
"The concept of the Global Jamaica Diaspora Council evolved out of discussions with the existing Diaspora Advisory Board members and other stakeholders, including the Economic Growth Council, who agreed that there needed to be an expansion of the engagement within the Diaspora to include new and emerging regions where Jamaicans reside," the Ministry says.
The Council will be chaired by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, and will and will comprise 28 members. It will have 14 elected members of which Canada will have 4, United Kingdom 4, and the United States 6. There will also be 14 appointed members\ from Africa, Asia and the Pacific, the Caribbean Latin America, the Middle East and Europe.
Voting for the elected members will take place on-line to which there is a strong objection. The Diaspora members want to have 'face to face' voting, so they know who they are voting for.
Opposition Shadow Mionister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Lisa Hanna in a statement last week, warned the government that the growing disquiet in sections of the Jamaican Diaspora in relation to the newly established Diaspora Council must be addressed immediately.
Hanna said, there needs to be a review of the framework of the new diaspora body and its policies to ensure that Jamaicans who are actively engaged and willing to participate in a national programme are not left out irrespective of where they reside.
The Shadow Minister said the Council needs to be an independent body that is able to represent the views of members of the Diaspora without political interference. She said it must be free to make submissions to government and other national stakeholder groupings without political encumbrance if it is to act in the best interest of Jamaica.
“Jamaicans abroad have always expressed a willingness to assist beyond sending remittances and therefore this platform of engagement through policy development creates a new opportunity, but it must be fair, reasonable and inclusive,” the Shadow Minister said.
The Northeast Region comprises Washington DC, Virginia, Maryland, The State of Pensylvania, New Jersey, New York and Boston
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