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'We take diaspora seriously', says Johnson Smith

Published:Thursday | April 20, 2017 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell
Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign, Trade Kamina Johnson Smith, has dismissed claims by her opposition counterpart that the Government is paying lip service to Diaspora related issues.

Addressing journalists at a press conference yesterday at the ministry on Dominica Drive in New Kingston, Johnson Smith said that Diaspora engagement was a significant part of the Government's domestic and foreign policy, adding that "this is not lip service".

She revealed that a new Diaspora Department has been established within the Diaspora, Protocol and Consular Division of the ministry.

A Diaspora Engagement Taskforce, chaired by former Jamaica Labour Party senator Dr David Panton, has also been established by the ministry.

This taskforce will play a key role in reviewing the institutional framework proposed in the National Diaspora policy.

Taking aim at Dr Morais Guy, her opposition counterpart, Johnson Smith said she had never asserted that the draft National Diaspora policy was complete or before Cabinet. In his contribution to the Sectoral Debate on Wednesday, Dr Guy said he was told by Johnson Smith during the Standing Finance Committee that the draft policy was before Cabinet.

The foreign affairs minister said the draft policy was now under review.

"I want to assure Jamaicans here and abroad that the ministry is dedicated and committed to ensuring that the policy is completed and we are treating it as a serious matter," she said.

In relation to the Jamaica 55 Diaspora conference, Johnson Smith said hundreds of Jamaicans overseas would return home "to share in our vision and renewed energy of redeveloping Kingston and recognising it as the great capital city that it is."

The conference, which will be held in Kingston between July 23 and 26, as Kingston celebrates its 145th anniversary as the capital city, and Jamaica celebrates its 55th anniversary of independence.