Ramocan wants to change image of Jamaican Diaspora communities

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, December 04, 2016

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Jamaica’s newly appointed High Commissioner to the United Kingdom George Ramocan is expected to leave for London mid-month to take up his new assignment.

This follows an announcement on November 16 by Jamaica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, which was really a mere formality as it was obvious to some that he would have been assigned to London from immediately after the new Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Administration took office in March.

So, why did he have to wait another eight months before he was officially announced as the new high commissioner to London?

Ramocan blames the delay on procedural matters.

"The Government determines who it wants to become high commissioner, but the host country has to sign off on the appointment. That is where the long wait was," he told the Jamaica Observer on Thursday.

"The Government had been waiting on the host country to respond, but that would have to be after their due diligence had been done. The UK’s foreign ministry may have been consumed by Brexit and other foreign affairs issues, or this may have been low on their list of priorities," he suggested.

"We don’t really know what was the reason, but in the past it had taken a more reasonable amount of time between the submission from the sending country and the response from the host country. This time it was unduly long," he admitted.

Ramocan stated that there was also another issue, in that his predecessor, Aloun Ndombet-Assamba, departed from as early as April — prior to a decision by Jamaica House — which made the absence of a high commissioner much more conspicuous than in the past.

However, after spending five years as Jamaica’s Consul General in Toronto (2009-2014), embracing both the Bruce Golding Administration between 2009 and 2011, and the succeeding People’s National Party’s (PNP) Administration between 2011 and 2014, Ramocan seems to have developed into an appealing choice for tough assignments in the Jamaican Diaspora.

In Toronto he has been replaced by a career diplomat, Lloyd Wilks, while in London the High Commission is being run by Deputy High Commissioner Angella Rose Howell since May, after Assamba left.

In arriving at the choice for London, Foreign Minister Johnson Smith did not have to look too far for advice. Her father, Anthony Johnson, a former JLP Senator, MP and minister, preceded Assamba in London.

Johnson served in Washington from February 2008 to May 2010, as Jamaican Ambassador to the United States and Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States. In 2010, he was sent to London as High Commissioner to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and as non-resident Ambassador to the Republic of Finland and the Kingdoms of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark and Ireland. He was removed in February 2012, within two months of the Portia Simpson Miller Administration returning to power.

But, obviously, Ramocan’s performance in Toronto speaks for itself.

He said that the celebration of Jamaica 50 (the country’s 50th anniversary of independence) gave him the platform he needed to focus on promoting the country’s rich cultural legacy, as well as encourage increased participation in Jamaica’s economic and social development by the Diaspora.

"The phenomenal tightening of the awareness of the significance of contribution of the Jamaican/Canadian community to Canada’s development, that was one of my major achievements," Ramocan stated.

"Before I went there, there was a point at which the headlines were only about the bad behaviour of some Jamaicans in Canada. So people were defining the Jamaican community on the basis of these negative headlines, and my mission was to change that. I can tell you of unprecedented levels of public awareness, recognition and acknowledgement of the value and contribution of the Jamaican/Canadian community to which it is was brought after my intervention," he added.

Next week, High Commissioner Ramocan will explain how he intends to improve the image of the Jamaican community in the UK, based on his experiences in Toronto and since.

Pastor of the Church of God International in Toronto and Chairman of the EMCD Group Limited, Ramocan is also a former JLP Senator and Executive Director of the Jamaica Institute for Political Education.

He also served as a member of the board of the former Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation and Vice-Chairman and interim CEO for the HEART Trust/ NTA following its establishment by former Prime Minister Edward Seaga.

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