ORLANDO: Jamaican Foreign Minister pledges change for Diaspora

Kathy Barrett

ORLANDO: Jamaican Foreign Minister pledges change for Diaspora
Senator Kamina Johnson-Smith with young members of the Diaspora at the 2016 Jamaica Diaspora Summit in Orlando

ORLANDO: Jamaican Foreign Minister pledges change for Diaspora

Jamaica’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Kamina Johnson Smith has pointed to the need for the passage of a National Consular Policy to improve the relationship between the government the Diaspora.

In an interview with Caribbean National Weekly, Johnson-Smith, who was in Orlando this past weekend at the Jamaica Diaspora Summit, said the policy recently approved by Cabinet demonstrates the Andrew Holness-led administration’s dedication to create a Diaspora network connected to their homeland in the “real way.”

“This will not only standardize the level of service at overseas missions and headquarters. I want a network that will feel a apart of Jamaican culture, food, language – even if they live overseas,” said the Minister. “Information needs to be readily acceptable. I want overseas missions understanding that the level and standard of service provided to Jamaicans who live overseas is of real importance to the people of Jamaica.”

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Johnson Smith however the dire need for improvement in many areas, highlighting some progress in the establishment of the Economic Growth council, chaired by investor Michael Lee Chin.

“In the upcoming months, Lee Chin will embark on a road show to share the vision and the apprise the Diaspora of a range of investment opportunities as well as any other mechanisms and protocol.”

The issue of the Diaspora’s involvement in Jamaica’s political affairs is another that has been at the forefront of discussions for several years. According to Johnson Smith, this issue isn’t being ignored by the present administration. Accordingly, she’s determined to look at reestablishing the Joint Select Committee on Diaspora Affairs which was established in 2009 to elevate the relationship with the Diaspora, but only met on three occasions.

“It’s my intention to reestablish the committee so that issues such as the Diaspora’s interest in political representation in Jamaica and the National Diaspora policy may be fully implemented.”

She added the National Diaspora Policy will provide a framework to maximize the contribution of overseas nationals for Jamaica’s development. “I understand many members of the Diaspora have already made significant contributions to the formulation of the policy. This underscores the value that we place on partnering with this very wide constituency.”

Concerning the recent UK referendum to leave the European Union, Johnson smith urged the Diaspora to “remain calm.” “We continue to encourage Jamaicans in the UK to continue to play an active role in the society. Our relationship in the UK is historically strong, and we are looking at ways to continue to strengthen the relationship.”

As it relates to fall out, particularly in the trading relationship with Jamaica, the Foreign Affairs Minister said that while there will be changes, the county will have to find opportunities in a strengthened relationship with the UK and continue working with the EU.

“The EU has been one of our largest donor partners since 1975,” said the Minister. “Along with the Prime Minister, I have been in touch with the EU Mission in Jamaica and the UK High Commissioner. What will be clear is that there will be a lot of uncertainty. There is uncertainty on their side and based on this we have to be open to options and to take advantage of them while remaining flexible.”

The conference was attended by representatives from Jamaica and the thirteen states in the southern region of the United States.

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