In recent years, as Jamaica has grappled with an increase in violent crimes, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has continuously urged members of the Jamaican diaspora to get involved in helping to curtail criminal activity on the island.
However, Holness and his right-hand man, Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Horace Chang, who also holds the portfolio as minister of national security, seem to differ on whether or not the diaspora can actually assist in crime-fighting efforts on the island.
The issue of crime and violence was the center of a virtual town hall hosted by Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States, Audrey Marks, on April 8, where Dr. Chang was a specially invited guest. The purpose of the chat was to hear the concerns of members of the diaspora and bring them up to date on how the government was tackling the worrisome crime situation.
But when asked if his ministry was interested in the expertise of members of the diaspora to help curtail crime on the island, Chang surprisingly said he did not see how the diaspora could help.
“Jamaica has some of the best crime-fighting expertise in the world and I cannot see any possible avenue to engage the diaspora expertise to help fight crime in Jamaica,” he said, adding that some of the people leading the fight against crime in Jamaica hold multiple degrees, “representing the best and brightest.”
The minister said the diaspora could best help with monetary donations and social programs rather than expertise.
These comments drew the ire of several diaspora organizations, who said they were disappointed by Dr. Chang’s comments.
The head of the Jamaica Diaspora Crime and Prevention Task Force, Dr. Rupert Francis, in a statement, said he was most disappointed with Minister Chang’s remarks.
“I believe that the experience and expertise that the diaspora possess will pave the way forward positively for our country,” he said. Francis said many found Chang’s remarks condescending and offensive.
Similarly, Dr. Allan Cunningham, the Global Jamaica Diaspora Council member for the southern United States region, said he was shocked and disappointed at the minister’s remarks.
“These are remarks coming from a senior member of the Jamaican government who holds the position of deputy prime minister, and for him to say he did want our expertise is shocking at the very least,” said Cunningham.
The Jamaica Diaspora Northeast USA also stated that it is time for the Jamaican government to stop viewing the diaspora as just a place to obtain financial remittances.
Dr. Horace Chang has been the minister of national security for just under three years and an active Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) member of parliament for over 30 years. Although Chang has held several positions throughout his career, leading the Ministry of National Security at a time when Jamaica is battling an epidemic of violent crime has proven to be his most challenging and demanding job yet.
Chang was born on November 10, 1952, in New Roads, Westmoreland, Jamaica. He attended the New Roads All-age School, Cornwall College, and the University of the West Indies (UWI). In university, Chang pursued a degree in medicine and was also the president of the Guild of Undergraduates, during which time he solved the guild’s financial problems and re-established a relationship with their Cuban counterparts.
After graduating from UWI and serving in both the private and public healthcare sectors, Chang entered politics in 1976 as a member of the JLP.
He was a youth leader in East Rural St. Andrew and the vice president of Young Jamaica, the youth arm of the JLP. In 1980, at age 27, he was first elected to parliament as a representative of Western Hanover, serving till 1989. From 1980 to 1986, Chang served in the Ministry of Health as a parliamentary secretary.
In 2002, he was re-elected, but this time as MP for St. James North Western constituency, and has served in that role since then. From 2007 to 2011, Chang served as minister of housing, environment, water and local government. At his direction, the National Housing Development Corporation of Jamaica became the Housing Agency of Jamaica. He also conceptualized the largest major water supply improvement system, the US$211 Million Jamaica Water Supply Improvement Project, while he was minister.
In 2018, Chang has appointed as the minister of national security, taking over from Robert Montague. In the three years as head of the Ministry of National Security, Dr. Chang has overseen the transformation of the national security structure, with improved infrastructure, improved technology usage, and the build-out of the national CCTV surveillance program.
Dr. Horace Chang also serves as the general secretary of the JLP. Following the September 2020 general election, he was also appointed as deputy prime minister.
He has been married to his wife, Paulette, for over 40 years. The couple has two children, Melissa and Martin.