Does the diaspora add value to brand Jamaica?

Franklin Johnston

Thursday, March 02, 2017

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Our diaspora is wonderful. I lived in their countries, met many at the education ministry. One wanted an official vehicle to take friends and gift books to a rural school. The entitlement was palpable but their passion was infectious, so my mechanic took them in my personal car. They work, support schools, send cash to their families — good folk. Yet our diaspora was no forced dispersal as Jews or Palestinians — both exiled. Ours made personal decisions to migrate as cabinets failed to prosper Jamaica.

Our leaders got independence, did not negotiate a good economic exit but joined with poor islands to make progress — idiocy! The diaspora was default for our poor, jobless, ambitious people; the brightest got scholarships, jobs; they migrated. Few poor was better than many; family planning, migration kept numbers low and masked Cabinet’s ineptitude as they hoped life would get better — they were wrong! So our diaspora is the residue of failed governments, not persecution.

We used to buy tickets at the airport, go to London and back — no hassle and no diaspora. But in 1958, our leaders gave up free movement in that single market of millions. They chose poor, distant small islands in a West Indies Federation and entrenched the Englishness they said they wished to avoid. In three years they had MPs, ministers, a Parliament in Trinidad but no consent from our people, so in May 1962 Bustamante ended the fiasco. We went to Britain.

Not fazed, they conspired to reprise federation by gradual means. Carifta in 1965 — free trade, conjoined development morphed into Caricom in 1973 and CSME in 2001 — federation by stealth. We went to Britain.

Our Independence was hasty (timeline May to July 6, 1962); leaders were financial novices; did not negotiate a good exit from the British single market; egos engorged — we have Empire too! A shameful tale of forcing choice on the masses. We went to Britain. Our diaspora grew. No Cabinet can stop choices of a free, ambitious people.

Britain is now negotiating independence from the EU (which our leaders did not); good exit terms and access to the single market. The British were keen to exit the financial burdens of Empire in 1962 and with smarts we might have kept market access. Demeaned by new visa regimes we now drip-feed to the diaspora; a ganja-fuelled criminal underclass in tow.

Cabinet should commission CaPRI/UWI to research our diaspora as it is a pillar of our growth strategy. The diaspora is a depleting resource. Will their adult kids step up? Do you see any on their junkets? Prime Minister, make contingency plans. Selah.

The first-wave diaspora began with workers after the war. Our poor and jobless packed "grips", put on Sunday best and sailed to Britain. My
Empire Windrush family from St Mary banana fields were not the best fit for London city life — was yours? Poor, scared, cold; a wish to return, low-paid jobs, racial abuse; some went mad, most still poor.

The second wave cut American cane in the USA, Cuba, later on to Panama. In the 1960s racism waned in America so more left. The third wave had nurse, teacher, student and the 70s nuanced the diaspora profile as some rich, fearing Communism left. Many achieved; our criminals did well too. Some crossed to mainstream jobs, business, church, politics; most kept heads down at menial jobs.

A fourth wave is underway — new profile. Many have scholarships, good jobs, degrees but cannot exhale as Jamaica is small, not at the cutting edge, fearful! We educate to frustrate! Off to Wall Street, Madison Avenue, the City, Mayo Clinic, Fashion Avenue, Inns of Court and may visit if we curb crime. Families are divided as kids fear here — meet me in Miami, Mom!

Despite their value the diaspora must account for stewardship of our brand. We need answers: Terrorism — The diaspora got us global hype for snipers, shoe bombers and in February Jamal Al-Harith aka Ronald Fiddler of Jamaican parents in the UK detonated bombs at Tal Gaysum, Iraq. He had been freed from Guantanamo after diaspora pressure in 2004; given compensation — a million British pounds; fled to Turkey in 2014, joined ISIL in Syria and blew up many people last month.

Does the diaspora help families with radicalisation and defend our name? Deportees — From 2012 to 2016 there were 4,135 from the USA, 1,345 UK, 931 Canada yet many nations with larger diasporas have no deportees "a wha wrong wid oono?" Crime and Prison — Our diaspora has the UK record for violent crime, drugs and the third largest prison cohort in the land of free everything — why?

Reparation is Cabinet policy but to target English buyers and omit African sellers of black flesh may be racist. That said, is the diaspora for or against? Do they lobby British MPs, Lords, business, church? British prison deal — PM Holness did not take it. Why did he refuse your UK taxes? Did you ask him? I do not agree with him but I will not see my PM insulted by your British MP Philip Hollobone. Discipline him!

Black Caribbean schoolchildren fail miserably. Asian and African kids excel — good family discipline. Diaspora kids are feral — at school, in street violence, stabbings. Poor parenting in the diaspora shames Jamaica. What can you teach us?

We have four/five generations of UK diaspora — a sacred cow to some politicians; but the elephant in the room is their net effect on brand Jamaica. They want Senate seats here — why? Most do better than us, not other diasporas. It has rich folk by real estate valuation, not business; poor English usage; most are low paid; business? (Mr Lee-Chin is an exception, not a precedent); few in top civil service jobs; Lords? MPs? (Dianne Abbott is an exception); they are under-represented in good things.

Our diaspora has great samples, the majority underachieve; criminals make big news; our brand suffers. Jamaica needs an accounting at your June conference in MoBay. Stay conscious!

— Franklin Johnston, D Phil (Oxon) is a strategist and project manager.

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