'No vote for Jamaican diaspora'
Carl Gilchrist, Gleaner Writer
Amid calls from some sections of the Jamaican Diaspora for them to be given voting rights, chairman of the United States North East Region, Patrick Beckford, has reiterated that this should not be so.
Beckford, an Advisory Board Member, told The Gleaner last night at the Jamaican Diaspora Convention 2011 that sending remittances does not equate to voting rights.
He suggested the Diaspora should instead concentrate on helping Jamaica in other ways.
Several members of the UK Diaspora have been advocating for the Jamaican Diaspora be given voting rights.
However, Beckford argued that in the Westminster style of governance which Jamaica is under, constituencies can be easily manipulated.
“And who is going to pay for all of this? So there are a lot of things you have to look on,” he said.
“Remember the constitution of Jamaica states that children who were born overseas of a Jamaican parent, all they have to do is apply for Jamaican citizenship or whatever and then they would be entitled to vote.
"So the question is, should my two children who were born in New Jersey, USA, who have no real connection to the politics (and) the representatives be given that right to dictate who their third or second cousin, who lives in Falmouth, is governed by?”
Regarding arguments put forward by some individuals that Americans overseas are allowed to vote, Beckford said such persons have to have a residence in the USA in order to vote on absentee ballot.
“Sending all this remittance and all that...doesn’t equate to granting you the right to vote,” Beckford stressed.
He suggested that the Diaspora needs to concentrate on one or two issues, and do it well.
“I’m looking at how we can improve Jamaica’s human development and there are creative ways we could do it; we could do it using technology and also using some of the infrastructure that is already in place in Jamaica.”
Beckford proposed a remittance of skills to move the country forward. However, he said the Government needs to work better at communicating to the diaspora, where the opportunities exist.