Over the past 2 ½ years as a part of the current Jamaica Diaspora Advisory Board (“the Board”) we have focused on evolving the process of Jamaican Diaspora engagement with the Government of Jamaica through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade. This engagement has always been and will forever remain an A-political engagement with the Government of Jamaica. History clearly demonstrate that there has been a committed Diaspora Advisory Board across different political administration in Jamaica with the seminal interest being nation building.
The collaborative input between the Board and the Minister(s) of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade with responsibility for Diaspora engagement is well documented, specifically with regards to the Draft Jamaica Diaspora Policy (“the policy”). Incorporated in the policy is the goal of improvement and evolution of a formal mechanism to move diaspora engagement forward into a deeper partnership with Jamaica. Discussions, collaboration among all the board members and the Minister(s) of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade and Jamaica Diaspora communities have culminated in the creation of the Global Jamaica Diaspora Council (“Council”) which is slated to be launched in January 2020 through an elections and appointment process. See https://www.globaljadiasporacouncil.com/.
The claims now being advanced by the Advisory Board member for the North East USA in the public domain is not in line with the facts and only serves to create division and confusion. To say the least we are extremely disturbed at this public campaign tactic designed to cause irreparable harm to the significant partnerships of mutuality that well-meaning Diasporan have worked to develop.
Firstly, The Terms of Reference for the Global Jamaica Diaspora Council (more specifically PART 4 iii) refutes the claim of no requirement to report back to the Diaspora community on issues important to the community. The members are required to consult, communicate and report honestly to their community within their regions in order to be effective and honest advisors to the Minister. Res ipsa loquitur
Secondly, there is a fright tactic being employed by stating that combined government -appointed votes can override community elected vote. This is an insult to the caliber of members being sought for the Council either by election or appointment. There is a failure to recognize that at some point there will be 14 elected Council Members which will include members of the Global Jamaica Diaspora Youth Council, as well as the 14 other appointed persons. Eventually there will also be elections for youth members as well as the other new emerging regions. This is a misguided claim by the board member as if this will no longer be an A- political process. An A-Political approach is a necessity for Diaspora participation and has been firmly established over the last 14 years. Again, we emphasized that as Board member we all understood that the role of the Council Members will be non-compensatory and advisory.
Following several meetings, the current board members all ratified and agreed on the Council and the Terms of Reference at the Board meeting on June 16th, 2019. At this meeting and as usual all members were robust and frank in their discussions with Minister Johnson-Smith about the Council, Terms of Reference and Elections. After review and revisions, all Board members ratified and endorsed the new format of the Global Jamaica Diaspora Council and its stated operational functions. Significantly, the Board member from the North East USA recommended that the term of office of Council Members should be extended from two years to three years. There was consensus that this would enable Council Members more time to achieve the agreed deliverables during their tenure and was unanimously accepted and endorsed by all the Board Members and Minister Johnson-Smith. At the close of the meeting there was no dissent expressed by any board member with regards to the Terms of Reference, the Draft Jamaica National Diaspora Policy, as well as the Global Jamaica Diaspora Council and its proposed constitution. It was noted that this was accomplished not withstanding that days prior, the Board Member for the North East USA had tried to unsuccessfully lobby some other board members outside of the regular board meeting to oppose previously agreed to Diaspora strategic plans but was eventually rebuffed by those approached.
Both the Policy and Council were overwhelmingly endorsed by the attendees of the 8th Biennial Jamaica Diaspora Conference held in Kingston, Jamaica on June 17-19th, 2019. The open floor endorsement and ratification came after a detailed presentation by Minister Johnson-Smith. This presentation was moderated by the Board Member of the North East U.S. with her public support and no objections stated. See : https://www.facebook.com/waynegjd/videos/2323230594386374/UzpfSTEwMDAwMDk4MzY3MDQyMDoyNTczODQwMDAyNjU4NzY0/
Markedly the outcome of the USA Diaspora Summit held in Morrow, Georgia in November 2018. It must be noted that at the Summit there was again collaboration between the three USA regions, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade (former Minister of State, Senator the Honorable Pearnel Charles Jr.) and members of the private sector. We strongly endorse and encourage the Jamaica Diaspora across the world to continue to organize impact policy where they live.
Since July 2017 we have had discussions in at least eight formal Diaspora Advisory Board meetings, collaboration among all the Board members and the Minister(s) of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, in addition to Jamaican Diaspora Communities across the world culminating in the creation of the Global Jamaica Diaspora Council (“Council”) which is slated to be launched in January 2020 through a process of elections and appointment process. See https://mfaft.gov.jm/jm2/
This necessitated and included all the current Board Members participation and agreement on the Council and the Terms of Reference and was finally accomplished on June 116th, 2019. Our last Board meeting of October 17th, 2019 where notably the Board member for the North East United States absented herself, dealt with making sure all eligible diaspora in all regions would be able to participate in the election process for the Global Jamaica Diaspora Council. All present Board members ratified and agreed on actions to be taken execute our obligation to ensure proper preparation for Elections to the Global Jamaica Diaspora Council and to make certain no region was disenfranchised from participating.
At this juncture, there should be absolutely no confusion about the role of each of the Council Members to be elected or appointed. Any such representation of confusion or lack of clarity by any board member would be at the very least disingenuous and or demonstrate a dereliction of responsibility to their community to explain their role and what exactly that Board member had agreed to and committed to supporting during board meetings. For any one truly confused or interested in the real commitment of their Board Member, the record is there to prove the commitment and agreement to move the plans for the Council forward. In July 2019, any confused Board member was also given the opportunity to go back to their own region to clarify or seek clarification of the expectations of their community and report back with specificity those, if any who need clarity. To date, with the exception of the Southern USA region (who provided the name of one individual) no specific individual or entity has been named by any other Board member.
All current Board members should have been au fait with their role and responsibilities, both in advising the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade and knowing the pulse of their entire region and not just a few usual dependable detractors and purveyors of negative distraction over the last 14 years. As a matter of record, each Board member was charged with and agreed to the responsibility of communicating their exact role as Board member at every opportune time as necessary. Each Board member has had at least two years to communicate that to the interested persons or organization in their region.
The specific role of the elected Council member has not contracted in comparison to the role of the Advisory Board Member. The Council represents an expansion of the Advisory Board. All Board members know this as they were direct participants in the creation of both the revised Terms of Reference for the Advisory Board and the new Terms of Reference for the Council. https://mfaft.gov.jm/jm2/The Council represents an expansion of engagement within the Diaspora to include new and emerging regions where Jamaicans live right across the globe. The members of the Global Jamaica Diaspora Council will collectively continue to be an advisory and consultative body to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade that will create pathways for increased engagement with the Diaspora. This process was long, transparent and arduous and the Board Member as well the Council member be charged with direct engagement with their community. There is no restriction on their level of engagement, however it is clear that at no point they should present themselves as political representative or controlling any seat of power.
One clear responsibility of Advisory Board Members pursuant to Terms of Reference has been to collaborate to have elections in the regions. If that Board member refuses such, they cannot be forced to fulfill their obligation. A responsible Board Member should not abdicate this responsibility out of strategy to derail elections, however if such responsibility has been so abdicated then the process moves on by Board consensus without that Board member. There should be no ambiguity that eligible voting members of the Diaspora should not be disenfranchised by the inaction of a Board Member. Board members all pledged to adhere to a code of conduct. Board members have a responsibility to make sure that the election process moves forward and is not derailed or thwarted by those who refuse to be properly informed or want to purposely misinform our Diaspora community by nefarious means.
It is disingenuous to claim that consultations were limited to just a few members of the Diaspora. The methodology that was used for consulting with the Diaspora in developing the new policy framework and structure is transparent and available for examination. There are clears terms of reference which explains who will chair the Council and the selection and appointment of Council Members. It is clear that persons who are raising these issues have failed to do their due diligence or are willfully blinded by their own personal agendas.
Disagreements can be genuine but sabotage, propaganda and misinformation wraps disagreement in unclean hands. Board members are expected to work to build and expand Jamaica Diaspora engagement not to destroy all the sacrificial gains and efforts made by Diasporans to bring us to the table to participate in shaping policy as it relates to our island nation. Our Diaspora movement is admired and emulated by the world. No one person under the shroud of support from unnamed, faceless supporters should be permitted to attempt to exclude Diasporans from participation in elections for the members of the Global Jamaica Diaspora Council. Persons are conflating issues of representation of Council Members and clearly have not examined the proposed roles of members and the fact that they are not restricted in any way to use a consultative process to engage with either their region or colleagues depending on their area of specialty. Fear of power grabbing is baseless. The narrative being promoted by those who now are clearly waging their own campaign against the establishment of the Global Jamaica Diaspora Council is divisive and counterproductive.
We the current Advisory Board Members serving the United Kingdom, Canada, the Southern United States and the West/Midwest United States of America endorse without reservation the Global Jamaica Council of the Terms of Reference and the elections and appointment process. There is no credible discontent as reported, don’t believe the unsubstantiated and unvetted commentaries. Check out all the publicly available documentation. Diasporans are united around the Global Jamaica Diaspora Council. The Diaspora will never allow partisan politics to enter our arena. We have carried out our responsibility to collaborate with our Jamaica’s Overseas Missions to establish Electoral Committees in all the regions of Canada, UK and the United States. We look forward to the continued and deeper partnership with Jamaica and Jamaicans wherever we are in the world. We respect and appreciate the opportunity to be builders of consensus and refuse to be purveyors of distrust and division in our Diaspora environs.
From: Jamaica Diaspora Advisory Board Members
Wayne C. Golding Sr. CD, JD. Southern USA. [email protected]
Dr. Rupert Francis-West/Mid-West USA. [email protected]
Dr. Sylvanus Thompson-Canada. [email protected]
Ms. Yvette Blackburn – Canada. [email protected]
Mr. Fitzroy Grant-United Kingdom. [email protected]
Mrs. Tanesha Westcarr- United Kingdom (Youth Leader). [email protected]