Come February 28th, Jamaica’s beloved Consul General to the South-East US, Franz Hall will conclude his assignment. In an interview with CNW, he admitted it is “hard to believe” that four years have already elapsed since he assumed his post in October 2013.
With what seems like a relatively short tenure of service, there is the perception that Hall is ending his term because he either doesn’t like nor is uncomfortable, in his diplomatic assignment.
Embraced functions and role of the position
However, the Jamaican CG was quick to point out that his assignment and its tenure is the sole responsibility of Jamaica’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the perception of him not liking his assignment is “somewhat of a surprise.” “I believe I have embraced the functions and role of the position,” he said.
Misperception of Consul General’s role
“There may be a misperception of the role of the Consular General as it relates to community engagement. I have tried to ensure that the Consulate continues to fulfill its role as the representative office of the Government of Jamaica, while remaining involved in the community. Of course, I can neither control what people think nor can I please everyone; all I can do is try to acquit my duties and responsibilities to the best of my ability and I believe that I gave it a fair shot,” he added.
Hopes profile of Consulate was raised
Admitting that he has been asked several times within recent weeks what he regards as his successful achievements during his term of office, CG Hall said it included streamlining some elements of the processing of documents in the consular office, where automation has been introduced to improve efficiencies.
“In relation to the Jamaican community and wider society, I would hope the profile of the Consulate was raised, as we tried to be present and involved with various and diverse community groups, professional associations, alumni association, philanthropic groups and Chambers of Commerce to ensure Jamaica was well represented,” he added.
“We also increased the use of social media to complement our website, in order to provide an opportunity for Jamaicans in the nooks and crannies of the states under our jurisdiction to feel a connection with the office.”
Absolutely no regrets
Asked if there were any regrets during his assignment, Hall said his personal mantra is “absolutely no regrets.” However, there were things he had hoped to accomplish. “It would have been good to visit more of the areas within our jurisdiction, but due to resource and time constraints, visits were limited in scope,” the CG revealed.
The Jamaican Diaspora
A significant component of the interview related to the Jamaican iaspora in the South-East US. Hall believes there’s real potential for growth, especially in the South Florida Jamaican community.
“There’s tremendous strength and potential of, and, for the Jamaican Community in South Florida. Jamaicans are well represented in all spheres of life,” he told CNW. “Studies have shown Jamaicans are the most successful immigrant group, in terms of educational achievement and wealth, in South Florida. This may come as a surprise to many. I believe the reason for this is because we assimilate very well, almost too well, into the fabric of society.”
In terms of the community’s engagement with Jamaica, given South Florida’s proximity, Hall said: “There’s significant economic and charitable activity in Jamaica being undertaken by persons in South Florida.”
“This continues to support the economic growth and development of Jamaica,” he added. “As the second largest community of Jamaicans outside of Jamaica, there’s a tremendous market for Jamaican exports to South Florida. Currently, Florida accounts for roughly one-third of all exports from Jamaica to the USA.”
Hall expressed confidence that through the existing mechanisms in place for engagement, namely the Diaspora Advisory Board Member, various established tasks force and the biennial Diaspora conferences, various concerns of the Diaspora are being communicated to the appropriate Jamaican authorities. And most importantly, he said, there is always ongoing discussions.
Encourage citizenship and political activity
Because Jamaican consul generals to the South-East US reside in South Florida, they are often assumed to be members of the community. Hall pointed out this misconception, citing that while as consul general he’s engaged in the activities of the community, it would be incorrect to say he was a member of the community.
“If I was, my focus would have been different,” he said. “With that said, there’s a point I want to stress. I encourage all who are eligible to become US citizen to do so. That’s the only way to secure your rights in this country. I also encourage persons to become politically active, not necessarily by running for office, but becoming engaged with your elected officials, to make their voices heard on issues important to the community,” the CG added.
“Given the numbers of Jamaicans in South Florida, there’s a vast potential for making our mark on the further development of this area.”
So what does the future hold? Consul General Hall said he isn’t aware there’s another overseas assignment for him, at least not for now. “In the immediate future, I will be assigned duties in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade,” he revealed, but admitted an overseas assignment is always possible given “the way the system works.”
Responding to an opinion within the Diaspora that Jamaican diplomats should be more involved in organizing and developing the Diaspora and be the main conduit between Diaspora communities and the Jamaican government, Hall said: “I do see a role for diplomats to assist with the development of the Diaspora. This is one of the main pillars of Jamaica’s foreign policy. However, care must be taken that we, as diplomats, do not become embedded in organizing the Diaspora. Rather, our role is more supportive. The Diaspora needs to organize itself, whether as a group or along lines of special interests. Then, we as conduits, can play a facilitating and supportive role in this effort.”
Who Will Replace Him?
Hall said he isn’t aware who will be appointed to succeed him, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should make an announcement soon. However, if there is need for an interim Head of Mission, the current Deputy Consul General, Cecile Christie, would act in the capacity until a permanent appointment is made.
Wrapping up our interview, Hall offered a farewell message to the South-East US region. “It’s a very simple message – continue to do yourselves, your families and communities proud,” he said. “When you succeed, so too does Jamaica. It has been an honor and privilege to have served in this capacity and interacted with my fellow Jamaicans in the South-East USA.”