Sun | Sep 15, 2019

Hanna: Time to give diaspora a vote

Published:Friday | June 14, 2019 | 12:28 AM

Opposition Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs Lisa Hanna believes that the Government should get cracking on making provisions for Jamaicans living overseas to participate in local elections.

“I think it’s something we should get done as quickly as possible as it would signal to the diaspora that once you have dual citizenship and a Jamaican birth certificate or a passport, you should be allowed the opportunity to vote in elections,” Hanna said at a recent Gleaner Editors’ Forum. “I know the foreign affairs and foreign trade minister, Kamina Johnson Smith, had said she would look into it, but I think it’s something we should really consider.”

She noted, however, that before that can be done, the proper mechanisms should be found through legislation to ensure that the exercise is free from corruption and malpractice.

“I have seen it happen in other jurisdiction where citizens of those countries vote in absentia and it works. It works in societies of trust, and that is where we need to get to in this time and age,” Hanna said.

It is estimated that some three million Jamaicans live outside the borders of the island nation, most of whom have settled in the United States, England, and Canada, with many others dispersed across the globe who have made considerable contributions to their adopted nations.

According to Hanna, while other countries lean heavily on the expertise and aid of their diaspora, in Jamaica’s case, it seems that it is only issues relating to remittances that get the attention of successive governments.

The Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CAPRI) has indicated that the diaspora contributes a minimum of 23 per cent to gross domestic product, through several sectors, including investments and tourism, but has the potential to contribute at least 35 per cent.

Beyond remittances, many in the diaspora have significant investments held in banks, bonds, and the stock market. CAPRI has estimated that Jamaicans overseas have about US$400 million invested in the country. They are estimated to have some US$12.4 billion in savings outside of Jamaica.

Hanna is also advocating that a special national honours be developed for such persons who have succeeded “while bringing glory to Brand Jamaica”.

“It would nice having a very special place on the list of national honours for people who have excelled in our diaspora. We look at Windrush, we look at people in the United States and Canada. There are nurse’s aides, janitors, businesses owners and executives, church leaders, who have been there (overseas) for 40 years or more and who have made significant contributions to the development of Jamaica’s identity in their adopted country. These are people who should be rewarded and honoured because it demonstrates the Jamaican spirit that we likkle but we tallawah,” Hanna said.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com