Jamaicans overseas prepare to elect new Diaspora representatives

New York,
USA — Jamaicans in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom — the three countries with the bulk of the Jamaican Diaspora — are now preparing to elect a new slate of representatives for the Global Jamaica Diaspora Council and the Global Jamaica Diaspora Youth Council.

Voter registration and nomination of representatives, which began on November 10, are due to end this Wednesday, according to an advisory from the Jamaican Embassy in Washington. Actual voting for the representatives will take place between December 2 and 19, 2022.

The process had been delayed due to some earlier issues with the website, a source told the Jamaica Observer.

Here in the United States, two of the three representatives on the Global Jamaica Diaspora Council will not be seeking re-election. They are Dr Allan Cunningham, who represents the southern United States on the council, and Dr Karren Dunkley, the representative for the north-east US.

Dr Cunningham cited challenges, such as the cost of travel and the geographical area, which has to be covered among the factors he is not seeking re-election.

“The travelling can be quite taxing and costly, and it has to be understood that this is also all voluntary work, something which was known to us prior to our decisions to serve in the position and which I continue to support,” he said.

“However, at some point the Government may want to look at providing a stipend to assist with the travelling issue. This does not necessarily mean that the Government itself would take up this responsibility, it could, instead, lobby the various stakeholders in the Diaspora to see if they would assist in this regard,” he told the Observer in an interview.

Cunningham currently has responsibility for the 13 regional states, including Florida, Georgia, Texas, North and South Carolina and Arkansas, which form part of the southern United States.

Dr Dunkley, in the meanwhile, said that, while she will not be seeking re-election, she is “prepared to and will seek to serve the Diaspora in other ways. I will not be walking away entirely”, she stressed.

Chauna Chin, who had also decided not to seek re-election, told the Observer that following requests from various stakeholders, she will again seek to represent the west mid-west region of the US on the council for another three years.

Chin, who oversees 23 states in her jurisdiction, argues that, “We should first demonstrate a concrete need for seeking any financial assistance so that our case is a strong one if and when such a decision is taken.”

She, however, acknowledged the challenges the position carries with it.

The election will only take place for seven of the 29-member Global Diaspora Council — three from the United States and two each from Canada and the United Kingdom — as the remaining 22 will be appointed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, which has responsibility for Diaspora affairs.

Some prominent members within the Diaspora have already signalled their intention to seek to represent the various regions. Among them are businessman Peter Gracey, Janice McIntosh, and Dr Rose-Marie Lewis from the southern region and former president of the National Association of Jamaican and Supportive Organisation (NAJASO) Roy Davidson in the west mid-west US.

In the north-east region, Rukie Wilson and Michelle Neil have so far declared their interest in seeking election.

In the meantime, the two current representatives in the United Kingdom — Dr Kevin Brown, who represents the midlands and northern regions, and Nathaniel Peat will both be seeking re-election.

In a telephone interview Dr Brown said he would like to see “the establishment of an executive agency to oversee implementation of the National Diaspora Policy”, noting that such an agency would not be unique since Government had set up commissions and agencies to implement policies in the past. Dr Brown described the current Diaspora engagement as “too fragmented” and said if he was re-elected, he would also be making representation to get the Government to remove the duty charged on motor vehicles for returning residents.

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