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Opposition wants J’cans overseas to support diplomatic missions

Wednesday, July 16, 2014    

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OPPOSITION spokesman on foreign affairs Edmund Bartlett has suggested that the Government give special assignments to Jamaicans living in the diaspora to support the country's diplomatic staff abroad.

Speaking in the sectoral debate in the House of Representatives last week, Bartlett said that he did not believe that the proposal for assigning a seat to a representative of the diaspora in the Jamaican Senate, which has been debated for at least the past decade, is sustainable because of the intricacies of the Jamaican democracy.

"But I believe that the diaspora can fill key diplomatic roles abroad as ambassadors-at-large or honorary consuls, on a voluntary basis," he told the House.

"This would give us connectivity at levels which our diplomats cannot achieve because of their lack of contact or access to certain corridors of power in the US, Canada or European communities, and even in the eastern and northern Caribbean," he stated.

Bartlett explained that this would not only reduce the cost of providing an efficient and effective consular service abroad, but could also open doors to new opportunities that the regular diplomatic staff would not normally be able to create.

He said that the idea was not strange because, historically, governments have designated special envoys for specific assignments as ambassadors-at-large or honorary consuls overseas.

He said that since the most recent Diaspora Conference in Montego Bay in June 2013, the country has heard nothing about the Government's focus on offering a diaspora bond, or enhancing the consular services abroad to better serve Jamaican nationals in other Caribbean countries, nor about completing the long awaited diaspora policy, which includes creating a governance framework for the Jamaican diaspora.

"At this rate, it seems we won't hear anything from them again on these issues, until another biennial diaspora conference is approaching. At that time, the files will be dusted off and passed on to the public relations and media specialists, to give the impression that we are making progress in partnering with our diaspora for social and economic development," Bartlett said.

However, he said that it is important for the Government to seek to broaden the diaspora's engagement in governance in Jamaica, if they are to be taken seriously in terms of a genuine partnership for prosperity.

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