Sat | Dec 2, 2023

PM counters migration drumbeat with pitch for patriotism

Published:Monday | August 22, 2022 | 12:09 AMAndre Williams/Staff Reporter
Prime Minister Andrew Holness addresses a G2K Central Executive meeting held at Portmore HEART Academy on Saturday.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness addresses a G2K Central Executive meeting held at Portmore HEART Academy on Saturday.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness has rallied the young professional corps of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) to instil patriotism in working-age youths as public debate rages on migration trends.

While acknowledging that Jamaicans in a free economy and society had a right to self-determination, he relied on moral suasion to press home the efforts of his six-year-old administration.

Holness, who is also leader of the JLP, used his bully pulpit to counter the loud narrative of migrationists, appealing to national pride and the aspirational goals of Jamaica as the place of choice to live, work, raise families, and do business.

“You are our patriots! You are the ones that will have to build Jamaica. And many of you will come back to Jamaica if you migrate to build,” said Holness, who delivered the keynote speech at the Generation 2000 Central Executive meeting at Portmore HEART Academy on Saturday.

“But those of you who decide to stay, let us put our shoulders to the wheel. Let us think positively and creatively, let us think generously, and let us do our part in building the Jamaican dream.”

His comments come against the backdrop of public furore over controversial remarks by Montego Bay Deputy Mayor Richard Vernon, who described as “cowards” expatriates who sought jobs overseas with no intention of developing their homeland.

Vernon has been faced with intense backlash at home and abroad, with critics arguing that the Jamaican economy was uncompetitive as overseas postings offer superior salaries and benefits.

The labour outflow has also been topical because of anecdotal accounts of worrying resignations from the island’s teacher corps, but the education minister has said in the past that years-long talk of an exodus was inaccurate.

Part of J’can story

The prime minister sought to frame migration as “part of the Jamaican story”, resulting in a diaspora whose size is believed to be similar to the native population.

While expressing concern about brain drain, Holness said that expatriates gave Jamaica a strategic advantage, including remittances that helped keep poor households afloat. Remittance inflows to Jamaica in 2021 totalled around US$3.4 billion.

Meanwhile, Robert Morgan, who also spoke at the Central Executive meeting, lambasted Opposition Spokesman on Education Damion Crawford as a failed politician.

And the partisan crowd agreed, facetiously saying that Crawford’s greatest achievements were “goats” and “eggs”.

Morgan, the minister without portfolio responsible for information, suggested that Crawford should not be taken seriously because he could not stay on message.

“Most people in Jamaica know that in 2015, Crawford encouraged everybody to migrate and in 2022 complains about why people are migrating,” said Morgan, dismissing attacks on Foreign Affairs Minister Kamina Johnson Smith and Education Minister Fayval Williams.

“… The people of Jamaica now not only want to hear the niceness and the loud noise and the shouting, but they are also interested in the cerebral. They want a proper articulation of what is the philosophy, the approach, what underpins the direction of your Government.”

Crawford called for an attitudinal shift by Williams days ahead of the September 5 start to the academic year, suggesting that she should be relieved of her job if she was unable to change gear.