Tue | Aug 14, 2018

No vote for diaspora

Published:Sunday | April 24, 2016 | 12:00 AM

The Jamaica diaspora does not deserve to vote in elections in this country. Those who clamour for this vote do so from a presumed position of being bright, educated and world-wise in their exposure.

Let us state some home truths. If you were capable and persevered enough, you would have made it in Jamaica. Running away, by your own choice, to take some job that allows you to meet your expenses, while possibly living in a basement, is not the epitome of success. You want to dictate and influence the laws under which we at home must abide, with no impact on your lifestyle.

Jamaicans have always migrated; some voluntarily and some as underage youngsters with no ability to influence the decision. However, once you attain the age of maturity, you could make the decision to return to Jamaica and make a meaningful contribution.

The argument that you send remittances to Jamaica has some merit. Remittances are valuable, representing the largest source of foreign exchange in the economy. But stop this foolishness that they represent a crucial contribution to the Jamaican economy.

Remittances are not a pool of capital, but designated for use by consumers in the meeting of daily living expenses. What exactly is remittance? It is members of the diaspora taking care of the barrel children they left behind, the elderly grandparent who raised them, and the family members who are too lazy to work and who benefit from the favourable exchange rate.


Increase in productivity needed


Jamaica needs a substantial increase in productivity. If expatriate Jamaicans wish to make the greatest impact on the land of their birth, subscribe to diaspora development bonds. Use your capacity to help create new infrastructure, jobs and improved health and education. Vote with your investments.

Any cursory reading of commentary on social media and in newspapers will reveal a mass of ridiculous statements. Expatriates have all the solutions, but they are only prepared to implement them from afar. There are more than 600,000 undocumented Jamaican aliens in the tri-state area of the USA who would rather eke out a living there than bring their skill sets to Jamaica.

This island has a severe shortage of health-care professionals, yet the Jamaicans abroad who work in the health-care system are not coming back to help improve standards in their homeland. There should be no vote for the diaspora. Want to vote? Come home and be subjected to the same laws, regulations and society as the 2.7 million among us.

Many countries offer their non-resident population the right to vote, but their domestic economies also benefit tangibly. The Israelis have bonds and compulsory military service. India has significant financial instruments for the outside-of-India population, and the proceeds benefit India.

For years Jamaicans have spoken of raising capital for national projects from the diaspora. It has gone nowhere, primarily because the diaspora want a premium on their rates of return. No sacrifice, no right to vote in national elections in Jamaica.

The raw numbers are against the diaspora vote getting anywhere in the Lower House or the Senate where they become significant or hold a balance of power. Appointments to the Senate will not be large enough to impact on the constitutional imperative needed to safeguard any change in that law. Where a two-thirds majority is required, the ruling party wants to have the best potential. No government will give that power to persons with divided loyalty.


Primary justification


One of the primary justifications for a diaspora vote in Parliament is to represent the intentions of those who claim a strong emotional connection to Jamaica. These persons seek duty-free cars, furniture, etc, if they plan to build a house in Jamaica. They seek free health care of the highest standard should they elect to do procedures in Jamaica, as the cost would be prohibitive in the United States.

As it is now, the Jamaicans who have come back to Jamaica from the United Kingdom and Canada often return to these countries for medical care. This is using Jamaica for convenience at the expense of those who have to live and pay the real cost here in Jamaica.

It boggles the mind that some who are in the diaspora, and claim that status only by the accident of birth, would seek a vote. They have never embraced the responsibilities of citizenship or experienced the challenges of daily living.

They do not share the anxiety induced by the tax system, nor do they endure long bouts of drought. They do not join the needed volunteers; do not engage with the churches and social organisations to offer guidance to the youth to enhance their quality of life. They seem only to want the power of representation in Parliament to tell us how it must be done.

No! Jamaicans abroad have made choices; those at home have also made choices. Let us respect the choices of each other. Change if you so desire, but no vote should be accorded to the diaspora.

- Ronald Mason is an attorney-at-law and Supreme Court mediator. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and nationsagenda@gmail.com.