Sun | May 28, 2017

Give Diaspora a constituent vote in Ja - Holness

Published:Thursday | June 11, 2015 | 6:00 AMEdmond Campbell
Andrew Holness

Opposition Leader Andrew Holness, describing his recent overseas trip to the United Kingdom (UK) and the Unites States (US) as a success, has urged the Portia Simpson Miller-led administration to explore ways to give members of the diaspora a constituent vote in Jamaica.

At a press conference called yesterday to outline the outcome of his visit to Washington in the US and London and Birmingham in the UK, Holness said his party would take the issue of the proposed diaspora vote in Jamaica to members of the public in its islandwide consultations.

Acknowledging that Jamaicans at home might question the move to give persons in the diaspora a vote here, Holness said that was a legitimate concern.

"You can craft it such that they vote in a constituent, and, therefore, it is a constituent vote, rather than deciding the Government."

He said the JLP would recommend a similar model to that practised by the French government, whereby their nationals vote overseas, but their ballots are registered for only one constituency in France, and not across all constituencies, which would then have an impact on the outcome of the elections.

GRAND REFERENDUM

According to Holness, the diaspora vote could be considered as one of a number of decisions to be decided in a grand referendum on several issues of national importance.

Holness said the diaspora vote would

mean that Jamaicans abroad would have a representative in Jamaica's Parliament. He added that Jamaica should treat its nationals living abroad as members of its 'Commonwealth' and not only those persons who reside in the British Commonwealth. In this regard, Holness said the country should consider changing its Constitution to allow members of the diaspora who are not residing the Commonwealth to sit in Parliament.

"We have looked at the French model and see that it is quite appropriate, and we will bring it to public attention and public debate," he added.

While abroad, Holness said he engaged Jamaicans on the establishment of a sovereign fund for Jamaica, in which members of the diaspora could invest in projects tied to infrastructure development and not budgetary support.

"We are prepared to put in place a government agency that would help to organise the great philanthropy that exists in the diaspora. It makes sense; it will make giving more effective and more coordinated," said Holness.