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Johnson Smith defends need for further consultations on diaspora voting

Published:Sunday | April 10, 2016 | 12:00 AMAndre Poyser
Johnson Smith

Minister of Foreign Affairs Kamina Johnson Smith, while admitting that she is aware of previous consultations on diaspora voting, says she will be pushing ahead with a fresh round of consultations.

"I am aware that some consultations through a joint select committee were started in 2010, and that diaspora voting was one of the areas examined; but I'm also aware that there was no definitive conclusion on diaspora voting, especially since arguments both for and against it were mooted by diaspora members," she told The Gleaner.

Patrick Beckford, a former diaspora advisory board member, has said the majority of presentations and submissions by diaspora board members to a joint session of the House in 2010 rejected the notion of diaspora voting.

Johnson Smith, however, contends that her research indicates that the jury is still out and that there is no majority conclusion on the issue among members of the diaspora.

"Government therefore intends to revise the joint select committee and the consultations will be primarily carried out as part of that process," she said.

Pointing to the joint select committee established in 2010 to examine diaspora issues, Johnson Smith noted that there were submissions from the diaspora on both sides of the issue.

"Some supported it and some opposed it. In addition to voting, other areas for diaspora contribution were actively examined," she said.

In defending the need for fresh consultations on diaspora voting, Johnson Smith revealed that the issue was widely raised by members of the diaspora with Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Edmund Bartlett while they were in opposition. This, she explains, forms part of the motivation for exploring the issue again.

According to Johnson Smith, the consultations will be relatively inexpensive as technology and existing forums will be used to maximise the process.