Thu | May 13, 2021

Chang under fire from diaspora members

Security minister’s remarks at town hall meeting on addressing crime draws criticism

Published:Monday | April 12, 2021 | 12:13 AMLester Hinds//Gleaner Writer
Horace Chang
Horace Chang

“Offensive”, “Disrespectful”, “Shocked”, were few of the sentiments expressed by diaspora leaders concerning remarks made by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang during a virtual town hall meeting.

Last Thursday’s meeting was arranged by Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States, Audrey Marks, during which Minister Chang sought to bring the diaspora up to date on how the Government was tackling crime.

In one of his responses to the members of the diaspora, Chang said he did not see how the diaspora could help.

“Jamaica has some of the best crime-fighting expertise in the world and I cannot see any possible avenue to engage the diaspora expertise to help fight crime in Jamaica,” said Chang said. He added that some of the people leading the fight against crime in Jamaica hold multiple degrees, representing the best and brightest.

The minister said that the diaspora could best help with donations rather than expertise.

This sparked outrage among some leaders, saying that the Government only wanted to get funding from the diaspora but do not want to use its expertise.

The head of the Jamaica Diaspora Crime and Prevention Task Force, Dr Rupert Francis, in a statement, said he was most disappointed with Minister Chang’s remarks.

“I believe that the experience and expertise that the diaspora possess will pave the way forward positively for our country,” he said.

Francis said many found Chang’s remarks condescending and offensive, since a number of eminently qualified persons of Jamaican heritage have been offering their services for free to Jamaica over the years. Many of these, he said, worked and continue to work in law enforcement in various countries and hold high-ranking positions.

“We are left wondering how he could be using the same expertise by non-Jamaicans and paying them, and not be willing even to have our expertise for free.”

DISAPPOINTED

Dr Allan Cunningham, the Global Jamaica Diaspora Council member for the southern United States region, said he was shocked and disappointed at the minister’s remarks.

“These are remarks coming from a senior member of the Jamaican Government who holds the position of deputy prime minister, and for him to say he did want our expertise is shocking at the very least,” said Cunningham.

He said that the prime minister and other ministers of Government, including Chang, have said in the past that they want to engage with the diaspora, and to hear Chang disparage the expertise in the diaspora, leaves him to wonder if these are sentiments that run throughout the Government.

“His remarks were a huge disappointment,” he said.

Also expressing disappointment at the minister’s statement was Dr Karren Dunkley, Jamaica Global Diaspora Council member for the northeast region.

“It is distressing that Dr Horace Chang would choose to respond in such an off-hand manner to the diaspora’s sincere concern and request to find ways to amplify and expand how the diaspora can contribute to decreasing the exponential rise in crime and violence,” Dunkley said.

“Reducing crime and ensuring public safety are imperative to Jamaica’s social cohesion and national development. Deep concerns exist around the prevalence of gun violence, sexual assaults, the high rate of murder and violence against women, child abuse, public safety, and prevention measures implemented to curtail further increase,” she said.

LACK OF REGARD

The Jamaica Diaspora Northeast USA said that Chang’s response should be seen either as an indication of his lack of regard for the diaspora or the urgent situation in which Jamaica now finds itself.

“The Government of Jamaica should no longer view the diaspora as just a place to obtain financial remittances; a come-when-you-call-it partner to give money or material resources,” they said in a statement.

Curtis Ward, Jamaica’s former ambassador to the United Nations, also expressed his disappointment.

“I was quite surprise coming from a senior member of the Cabinet. He has a long and greater understanding of the diaspora and its expertise, so for him to make the remarks he did was disappointing, to say the least,” said Ward.

Several people also took to social media to voice their displeasure at Chang’s remarks.

The diaspora leaders said they will to write to Prime Minister Andrew Holness asking for a meeting to ascertain the Government’s position on the diaspora.