Excited and happy to be Jamaican New citizens express pleasure after ceremony

Observer staff reporter

Friday, August 10, 2018

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Three-and-half years ago, Nigerian ophthalmologist Dr Joan Bashorun-Johnstone, who was then a 61-year-old widow, made a bold move by travelling to Jamaica for work. The move resulted in her falling in love with the island and being blessed with a second chance at love.

The affable doctor, who seems to be glowing with happiness, was one of 29 foreigners from a number of countries, among them Canada, China, Nigeria, India, and Cuba, who yesterday officially became Jamaican citizens.

“I am so excited and so happy to be a Jamaican,” Dr Bashorun-Johnston, who had big smile on her face, told the Jamaica Observer following a citizenship ceremony at the Police Officers' Club in St Andrew.

When asked why she made the decision to settle in Jamaica, she said, “The Jamaicans are very lovely, you know. Wherever you go there are people ready to help you. I just love it here, and the food except curry, it's too spicy the food is wonderful.”

According to the eye doctor, when she came to Jamaica she had no intention of staying, but after experiencing the culture she fell in love with the island and, on top of that, she met her second husband..

“My husband is very gentle and loving, he is always looking out for me, he doesn't want me to suffer, he does everything for me. God brought him to me,” she said.

Dr Bashorun-Johnstone said they met after he came to her as a patient who was suffering from cataract, and she referred him to the Chest Clinic where he did the surgery which was successful and at no cost to him.

“When he did the surgery and he could see and he realised that he could have been blind he was overwhelmed and that's how everything started,” she said.

Two other Nigerians Dr Charles Opara, and a nurse, Grace Dowyaro had similar stories about falling in love with the island after visiting.

“I came to work here at the Kingston Public Hospital and I fell in love with the country. The people are so lovely and welcoming. I love everything. I spent about 10 months and then went back and got my two kids,” said Dr Opara.

He explained that he arrived in Jamaica nine years ago on the invitation of a friend. But during that visit he decided to stay, as he could not get enough of the beautiful scenery, beaches and countryside. He also said that his wife and four children will be joining him here, now that he is a citizen.

Huimin Nie, a young medical doctor who is originally from China was also delighted to finally be called a Jamaican after living on the island for the last 13 years.

The former Immaculate Conception High student said she was first introduced to the island by her parents who were working here.

“I love the beach. I would want to go there every day, but because of work I can't. I love that it is always sunny, not cold,” she said.

An Indian national, Sangeeta Sharma, who replied on behalf of all the new citizens, said: “Today I am a proud Jamaican. On paper I become a citizen today but I have been one at heart a long ago. I have been blessed to live in this beautiful island for the past 18 years and I have been asked this question many times; 'why I choose Jamaica as my home?' and my answer is always the same, 'I have never met a set of people who are as helpful, as loving and as warm as the Jamaicans',” she said.

“Each day I wake I thank God that He blessed us with this gorgeous island we call home. People from all over the world spend hundreds and thousands of dollars to come here and we get to see it every day. We need to thank God and appreciate the beauty,” she added.

Sharma, who operates a business with her husband, who had arrived here before her, pledged to use the resources available to her to help care for the island.

Of yesterday's batch, seven became citizens by way of marriage, six by naturalisation, and 16 by registration.

National Security Minister Horace Chang welcomed them and urged that they proudly bear Jamaica's name.

“You are encouraged to honour her with diligence and sincere labour, to strengthen her with your contribution to her communities and to defend her integrity through your rejection of all corrupt and violent activity. The preservation of our blessed nation is dependent on all our citizens,” Dr Chang said.

Meanwhile, Andrew Wynter, chief executive officer of the Passport, Immigration, and Citizenship Agency (PICA), said the agency has being seeing a growth in the number of people applying for citizenship.

“We are actually in the process of reviewing the processes for persons to become citizens so that we can certainly speed up that process. There are four categories marriage, descent, registration, and naturalisation and we're looking at how best we can streamline those processes, particularly to assist Jamaicans living in the diaspora who have their children, spouses and other relatives who would like to become citizens of Jamaica, to ensure that they, too, can become part of the greater Jamaican community,” he said.

“On average we have 3,000 to 4,000 persons and we are certainly looking forward to that number increasing over the next few years,” Wynter said.

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