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Diaspora split over government plans for voting

Published:Saturday | April 9, 2016 | 4:00 AMAndre Poyser

There appears to be some amount of division among prominent members of the diaspora community as it relates to plans by the Government to begin consultations on the possibility of introducing diaspora voting.

Patrick Beckford, a former advisory board member from the United States (US) Northeast, has pointed out that diaspora board members, in a 2010 submission and presentations to a joint session of the Houses of Parliament, in large part rejected the notion of

diaspora voting.

Beckford contended that the countries cited as models which Jamaica could follow as it seeks to introduce diaspora voting are not perfect models given the fact that the diaspora population is much smaller when compared to the population of the country.

According to Beckford: "Our diaspora has equal or more voting-age people." This, he said, creates a situation where the diaspora may impose its will on the Jamaican people who have to live with the consequences of the vote.

LGBT issues

Beckford has also argued that the openness of the diaspora to lesbian, gay, bisexual and

transgender (LGBT) issues could create a conflict for the more conservative voters in Jamaica.

Leo Gilling, of the Jamaica Diaspora Education Task Force, has, however, said that the objections to diaspora voting are not based on an entirely correct premise.

"All these objections are somewhat valid but somehow not entirely correct as Jamaica recognises dual citizenship, and as long as you are a citizen, your privilege to vote cannot be taken away. One may need to execute due diligence in re-activating that right from time to time, if they have taken up residence outside of the country ... however, it's still the lawful right you have as a Jamaican," he said.

According to Gilling, the proposed manifesto plans of the Jamaica Labour Party to appoint a diaspora member to the Senate or to Parliament makes the possibility of diaspora voting plausible.

andre.poyser@gleanerjm.com