Diaspora wish list
Crime not the top concern in leaders’ prescriptions for next 60 years
Ambassador Curtis Ward.

New York, USA — Diaspora leaders here have a number of issues they want to see addressed to ensure the country becomes truly prosperous and independent before the next 60 years and, surprisingly, crime has not topped the list.

Nearly all the leaders with whom the Jamaica Observer spoke said removal of the monarch as Jamaica's head of State and the United Kingdom Privy Council as the country's final court of appeal was their main concern.

Other matters topping their list include improved health care, education, and economic activities that will improve the living conditions of the vast majority of the Jamaican population, especially those below the poverty line.

Dr Rupert Francis.

"There is absolutely no reason why Jamaica should continue to hold on to the vestiges of colonialism in respect of the monarch as head of State and the Privy Council as the court of last resort," former Ambassador to the United Nations Curtis Ward declared.

"Most Jamaicans cannot afford to have their cases adjudicated before the Privy Council. The Caribbean Court of Justice [CCJ], in which we have invested heavily, has shown that it is capable of performing and is performing at the highest standards," Ward said.

Head of the Jamaica Diaspora Council for the Southern United States Dr Allan Cunningham; National Association of Jamaica and Supportive Organisations (NAJASO) President Joyce Lel-Ali; and Sadie Campbell, who presides over the Jamaica Progressive League (JPL), also want to see Jamaica cutting ties with the British monarchy and the Privy Council.

Sadie Campbell.

There was clear consensus among the Diaspora leaders for serious investment in education, health care, and agriculture and a greater engagement with the Diaspora.

The Diaspora list is bound to catch the eye of Opposition Leader Mark Golding who has announced tighter relationship with the Jamaicans overseas as a major plank of his People's National Party (PNP) programme going forward.

The interviews were done before Golding spoke at his party's annual general conference last week and had nothing to do with his position. But Golding was seen meeting with Diaspora leaders and organisations during the Jamaica 60 celebrations in the US and has announced he would be heading back there in short order.

Irwin Clare Sr.

Looking to the next 60 years, Ambassador Ward argued that there is need for what he refers to as "human security" which includes the availability of quality health care and education that will benefit the population.

"We like to refer to ourselves as a great country, but we cannot have a truly developed economic situation if vast sections of the population are not benefiting." he said.

The views regarding improved education, health-care services, and increased economic opportunities are ones embraced by Dr Rupert Francis, head of the non-profit body Jamaican Men of Florida, and Diaspora advocate Irwine Clare Sr.

Patrick Callum.

Both believe that improvements in those areas could play a significant role in reducing the perennial crime rate in the country as it would likely lift the living standards for the majority of those below the poverty level.

Dr Francis also stressed the need for "more serious efforts on developing a robust agricultural sector in an effort to reduce the country's food import bill and move it closer towards an effective food security while generating increased employment".

Dr Cunningham, meantime, wants to see measures put in place to reduce the level of corruption, which he said is all too prevalent at all levels of the Jamaican society.

Ronnie Hammick, president of the Ex-Correctional Officers Association of Jamaica, has among his list of priorities to ensure Jamaica attains true independence over the next 60 years, "a complete improvement in the health-care system, an expansion of the basic infrastructure to benefit rural communities, especially, and a considerable reduction in corruption and the level of crime".

Opposition Leader Mark Golding with attorney Alison Smith, president of the Broward County Bar Association, during his swing through the Florida Diaspora last month.

"There should be a concentrated effort, a type of master plan, if you will, for the development of rural Jamaica. Currently, there is a feeling that not enough is being done in this regard," he said.

"You look at how people in rural areas are unable to access quality health-care services as a stark example of what is clearly a lack of adequate attention to those areas.

He said he would like to see Internet service extended to those areas to assist with the delivery of a better education and other critical developmental issues which are lacking for the country's rural population.

Dr Karren Dunkley, who heads the Global Jamaica Diaspora Council for the Northeast United States is advocating for "constitutional reform to address certain issues that will put us on the path of true Independence during the next 60 years".

Dr Allan Cunningham

"Comprehensive dialogue with every level of the population — the private sector, civil society, even those who operate in Coronation Market — should be undertaken to deal with such critical matters," she argued.

She said that a critical aim of the constitutional reform she is advocating is how "we as a country can extricate ourselves from the colonial system to get to a truly independent country".

"The question of a Diaspora representation in the Senate and the need for deeper Diaspora engagement should also form part of the conversation," she added.

Moreover, Dr Dunkley wants to see more serious attention paid to infrastructure expansion and improvements in roads, water supply, electricity, education, and health care for those living under adverse conditions across rural Jamaica.

Dr Karren Dunkley

"Everything should be done to lift the entire population out of poverty," she said.

In his view, Patrick Callum, president of the New York chapter of Generation 2000 (G2K), the young affiliate arm of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), wants to see greater emphasis on economic developments that will lift the living standard of the entire population.

"That is where our true Independence lies. I believe that we should seriously consider the development of our natural resources as a matter of priority. Take the matter of our bauxite, we should work towards developing all the by-products from this mineral on our own," he reasoned.

"If we can see some real progress on the economic front along with a robust health-care system and a manageable reduction in crime, we could achieve true Independence before the next 60 years," he told the Observer.

In respect of the country severing ties with the monarchy and the Privy Council, Callum said the matter should be carefully addressed to help ensure the right decision is arrived at.

Callum appears to be reflecting widespread concerns that the CCJ had not yet reached the stage at which it could inspire the confidence of a majority of the Caribbean population. Some point to the fact that only four out of the possible 15 countries had joined the appellate jurisdiction of the court as evidence.

BY HAROLD G BAILEY Observer writer

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