Sat | Aug 19, 2017

Government to begin consultations on diaspora voting

Published:Friday | March 25, 2016 | 3:02 AMAndre Poyser
Johnson-Smith: I know that Jamaicans in the diaspora are passionate about their homeland and maintain a key interest in issues of national importance.

The Government is to begin consultations aimed at examining the possibility of members of the diaspora being allowed to participate in the electoral process.

Senator Kamina Johnson-Smith, minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade, made the announcement while addressing the 2nd Advancement in Education Summit held at Jamaica College in  St Andrew on Wednesday.

“I know that Jamaicans in the diaspora are passionate about their homeland and maintain a key interest in issues of national importance. In this regard, many of you have indicated a desire to be involved more actively in the political process, particularly in our democratic electoral system,” she said.

Johnson-Smith disclosed that she has instructed select Jamaican embassies and missions to begin canvassing the views of their respective diaspora constituents.

“To formally start this process I have instructed our missions in selected countries to obtain, as a matter of urgency, all information pertinent to facilitating voting for members of their diaspora. We will engage in consultations on the matter and will ultimately place it before Parliament,” she said.

In examining the matter, Johnson-Smith said the Government would be seeking to model countries which have successfully facilitated diaspora voting.

Some of these nations include India, Mexico, France, Israel, and Ireland.

These countries have already implemented frameworks to facilitate external voting for members of their diaspora.

“The Government of Jamaica is committed to examining the best practices of these countries and exploring options for giving the diaspora a stronger voice in the affairs of our nation,” she added.

Johnson-Smith also affirmed the Government’s commitment to completing the diaspora policy.

“The review, completion and passage of the national diaspora policy is a priority for my ministry,” she said.

The passage of the policy is to be accompanied by the re-establishment of the joint select committee of the Houses of Parliament on diaspora matters.

This, Johnson-Smith said, would be with a view to elevating the relationships between the Government and the diaspora.

“Its bipartisan composition will also serve to reinforce the importance placed on the diaspora by both  sides of the House," she said.

"The committee will provide a platform for deliberations at the parliamentary level on matters that affect all stakeholders including dual citizenship, voting rights in Jamaica for diaspora members and parliamentary representation. We will seek to facilitate broad participation and submissions to the committee through the use of technology.”

andre.poyser@gleanerjm.com