JIS News

The country’s spiralling crime rate is of major concern to Jamaicans both at home and abroad, and as such, the issue has been placed on the front burner for discussion at the second Jamaican Diaspora Conference, scheduled for June 15 to 16, 2006.
Speaking at a recent JIS Think Tank, Senator Delano Franklyn, State Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, revealed that Minister of National Security, Dr. Peter Phillips, has been asked to be the lead presenter in the “full range discussion on the crime situation in Jamaica”.
Dr. Phillips’ presentation will be followed by a panel discussion with resource persons to include Commissioner of Police, Lucius Thomas and representatives from the police force in the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States. “These are all Jamaicans, who have reached very prominent positions [in these forces],” Senator Franklyn informed JIS News.
Other topics to be discussed at the two-day conference, which will be held at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston, include: ‘Mobilisation of the Diasporic Community’, ‘Opportunities for Business Linkages and Investment’, ‘Globalisation and the Diaspora, and implications for the movement of people with focus on the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).
“It is absolutely important to afford the conference an opportunity to discuss the issue of movement of people, because if people are not able to move, you will not be able to develop a Diaspora community, and I believe that this discussion is most appropriate at this time, when seen in the context of what has evolved in the United States and also what is happening in other Diasporic communities,” the State Minister observed.
Discussions will also focus on the important matter of ‘Culture and Tourism’.
“The Jamaicans living overseas constitute a very high proportion of visitors to Jamaica and stopover visitors to Jamaica, and therefore constitute a very critical segment of our tourist market. In the area of culture, I need not emphasize what music and entertainment has done for us on the international stage, what it continues to do, and what it can do…we therefore consider it very important to get the input and views of the Jamaican overseas community,” pointed out Senator Franklyn.
According to the State Minister, the conference will seek to deepen and strengthen relationships with Jamaicans everywhere, allow the Diaspora to be actively involved in national development, provide Government with a better understanding of some of the critical challenges faced by Jamaicans living abroad, and, following on the advancements of the first Diaspora conference, will continue efforts to put in place, the necessary institutional mechanisms to ensure organised and purposeful interaction.
Another important aim of the forum is to give Jamaicans a broader voice, and in keeping with this objective, the Diaspora Conference Organising Committee sought input from the Jamaicans living overseas to develop the conference agenda, Senator Franklyn told JIS News.
“It is important for us to send the signal that the conference is not just about us here in Jamaica.but it is also most importantly, to give an opportunity to Jamaicans living abroad to tell us what they think about us and out of that, to create a framework for dialogue and discussion,” he said, adding that the overseas community has long clamoured to be involved in the planning process, to share their thinking and to help with the necessary organisation.
Since the inaugural Diaspora Conference in 2004, several infrastructural developments have taken place in an effort to not only maintain, but also enhance the relationship between the Diaspora and Jamaicans locally and concretise the established links. These include the election of a Jamaican Diaspora Advisory Board to advise the Minister on interacting with the overseas community; the construction of a Diaspora website; and the designation of June 16 as Jamaica Diaspora Day, to be observed annually.
“More important than these though, is that we have established a channel to communicate with the Diaspora overseas and for them to engage in a productive and sustaining manner with us who live in Jamaica,” noted Hon. Douglas Orane, Chairman of the Diaspora Conference Organising Committee.
Other initiatives, proposed by the conference delegates and not yet completed, include the establishment of a Jamaican Diaspora Foundation, which is expected to be up and running in the near future as preparatory work is almost complete, and the creation of strategies “to tap into the potential talent and human resources of the overseas church community,” said Senator Franklyn.
“Bishop Peter Morgan, who attended the conference in 2004, was given the responsibility to follow through in that particular area…and he will be at this year’s conference to provide an update on where we are in terms of the organisation of that particular community,” he informed.
The formation of lobby groups in the overseas countries, as was instructed at the inaugural conference, is also still in train.
“This is an area where we have not yet been able to realise our potential, largely because I think we underestimated what would be required of conference participants and the Advisory Board members in particular, to organise the structures in the respective communities, so that they could bring under one umbrella, all the institutions, all the organisations, which currently exist,” Senator Franklyn conceded.
Finally, the Jamaican Diaspora recommended the organisation of Trade Councils, which would be structured in such a way as to encourage Jamaican business persons living overseas to organise themselves and invest in Jamaica, explained the Junior Foreign Affairs Minister.
“We have established three Trade Councils, particularly in the United States since the last conference,” he informed.
This year’s Diaspora Conference will be opened by Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller, while Opposition Leader, Bruce Golding will participate in the opening ceremony. Sir Bill Morris, Chancellor of the University and influential British labour leader, will be the guest speaker at the end-of-conference dinner.