NEW YORK — Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Hon. Marlene Malahoo Forte says she is very optimistic that a Diaspora Convention scheduled for June 16-17, at the Jamaica Grande, Ocho Rios, will be successful, as from all indications, “members of the Jamaican Diaspora are committed to support Jamaica’s development."
Addressing more than 100 Jamaican nationals at the Consulate General of Jamaica, in Manhattan, New York, on May 16, State Minister Malahoo Forte, in responding to concerns about the upcoming Diaspora Convention, said as a matter of policy, members of the Diaspora are being engaged in a formal and structured way.
She pointed out that while there may be differences in implementing policies and programmes, it is obvious that overseas Jamaicans demonstrate similar passion and commitment to support Jamaica’s progress. “The Government is committed to engaging the Diaspora in a constructive and mutually beneficial manner,” she added.
The State Minister, who has responsibility for Diaspora affairs, told the meeting that the agenda for the Diaspora Convention is being crafted with support from stakeholders, including the leadership of the Diaspora Boards in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. “I am pleased to report that the agenda remains a work in progress. We have had feedback and they have been incorporated. We continue to refine the agenda, even as we continue the planning process,” she said.
Commenting on plans to change the method by which the Advisory Board is to be constituted, the State Minister explained that the proposal to alter the method came against the backdrop of numerous complaints, received by the Ministry, from the Diaspora. “They said the current process was depriving hardworking, committed and dedicated members of the Diaspora (who are unable to attend Convention) of the opportunity to vote for those who will represent their interests and concerns, and that some existing Board members are neglecting their representative roles and have been promoting their personal interests,” she said.
Arising out of meetings with the Diaspora and Consular Department of the Ministry, the State Minister also disclosed that the proposal was made that each Region should vote in their respective areas for persons who will be put forward for selection to the Advisory Board. “Half will serve as primary advisors and the others will serve as alternates. The selection would then be done by the Minister from those put forward from each Region,” she explained.
Chairman of the Jamaican Diaspora North East Board, Patrick Beckford described the meeting as very fruitful and informative. “The State Minister listened to our concerns and addressed all the relevant issues as best as she could. We are now looking forward to a very robust and successful convention in June,” he said.
Consul General, Geneive Brown Metzger cited the need for better dialogue and communication between government institutions and members of the Diaspora. She noted that the Consulate General of Jamaica, in New York, has started the communication process with the registration of some 120 Jamaican owned and operated organisations as well as a database of over 10,000 Jamaican nationals.
“We have to keep the lines of communication open in order to better serve each other,” she said.
By PATRICK MAITLAND, Freelancer