Mon | Sep 26, 2022

‘BONEHEADED’

Expats rebuke MoBay deputy mayor for labelling them cowards

Published:Saturday | August 13, 2022 | 12:09 AMLester Hinds/Gleaner Writer
Montego Bay Deputy Mayor Richard Vernon.

NEW YORK: Members of the diaspora have reacted strongly to Montego Bay Deputy Mayor Richard Vernon’s characterisation of expatriates as cowards for seeking out greener pastures at the expense of developing their homeland. “Only cowards run away to...

NEW YORK:

Members of the diaspora have reacted strongly to Montego Bay Deputy Mayor Richard Vernon's characterisation of expatriates as cowards for seeking out greener pastures at the expense of developing their homeland.

“Only cowards run away to go to America because they are seeking out opportunity. Opportunities are there overseas, but do not run away and leave your country, especially leaving indefinitely, and you don't want to contribute to the further development of your country,” Vernon said while addressing an event on Thursday.

“You same ones who are saying that the country is not going on with anything, what are you doing to develop your own country? They made the sacrifice in America and all the First-World countries so they can live the life that you admire, so do the same for your country and your parish,” he continued.

The remarks did not sit well with the diaspora, which is largely believed to number about three million people.

The icy whiplash saw a wide cross-section of Jamaicans living in the United States characterising the deputy mayor as “stupid”, “ignorant”, “arrogant”, “asinine,” and “uneducated”.

Marcelaine Lawson said such remarks make her not want to return to the island.

“We are keeping Jamaica alive. We send money home weekly to take care of our loved ones, money that finds its way into government coffers, so to call us cowards shows the depth of his ignorance,” she said.

Net remittance inflows in 2021 totalled US$3.393 billion, an increase of 20.7 per cent on 2020, the Economic and Social Survey Jamaica shows.

This point was supported by Clover Hall.

“Schools, hospitals and other institutions in Jamaica benefit from the remittances we make to Jamaica. Is he forgetting that remittances are the second-largest contributor to the Jamaican economy?” she asked.

Franklyn Dunn emphasised that Jamaicans overseas were doing much to improve those in their homeland.

“If every Jamaican remained in Jamaica, the country would be overpopulated and things would move even more slowly than they do now,” Dunn suggested.

“Does he realise the significance Jamaicans make to schools, hospitals and other infrastructure in Jamaica?” he asked, also adding that many construction projects in the island are being spearheaded by overseas Jamaicans desirous of returning to live in the country of their birth.

Tong Kelly dismissed the remarks as “absolute stupidity”.

“Where are the opportunities in Jamaica for people to remain? The hospitals are a mess and you are not guaranteed to get proper care if you become sick. The schools are in shambles. Is that what you want people to stay for?” he asked.

Dr Allan Cunningham, the Global Jamaica Diaspora Council member, said the remarks were “asinine”, but pointed out that it was not just Vernon who held such views, noting that even close associates back in Jamaica also sometimes express such sentiments.

“They can never see the potential of the diaspora. They do not take the time to familiarise themselves with how Jamaica benefits because of the diaspora and so from time to time, we get these uneducated and uninformed statements,” he said.

“It is a real stupid statement,” he said.

Dr Karren Dunkley, the Global Jamaica Diaspora Council member for the Northeast Region, described the remarks as “woefully unfortunate”, saying that they reflect both ignorance and arrogance.

Dunkley suggested that communication be opened with individuals who share this mindset.

Tony Gray questioned whether the deputy mayor is aware that the summer tourist trade in Jamaica is fuelled by Jamaicans returning home for holidays.

“Such boneheaded statements are what cause rifts between Jamaicans at home and Jamaicans overseas,” he said.

editorial@gleanerjm.com