Mon | Mar 8, 2021

Letter of the Day | Bipartisan approach needed to mobilise diaspora

Published:Wednesday | April 17, 2019 | 12:00 AM


The next Diaspora Conference is nigh – a mere weeks away. Again we will search for a strategy that will enable Jamaicans at home and abroad to build our nation. To date, we seem to be struggling to fine-tune the efforts Jamaicans abroad have been making to do what they can.

I am writing this short letter to repeat what I wrote in a letter which you published on January 19, 2010. In it I urged that our two then retired prime ministers – Messrs Patterson and Seaga – join hands in a joint appeal to our overseas Jamaicans to assist with our development. That plea was ignored.

Just so Jamaicans didn’t dismiss it as unprecedented, I pointed to two instances where the two former United States (US) presidents – Messrs Clinton and Bush – not just on one occasion, but twice, made joint appeals to the American people when disaster struck the country. As I witnessed the enthusiastic response from the public, I hoped that our two would do likewise.

I didn’t suggest it just because it was done in the US. I knew then that we are still ambivalent about whether we should do what others do. What I did know, though, was that we were (and still are) deeply divided politically. I knew that it would be a display of statesmanship that has been conspicuously absent in our politics.

However, if that symbolic union could have been shown to the overseas Jamaican community, as well as to those of us at home, I believe that our Diaspora Conferences would have yielded answers that still elude us.

I am returning with the same proposal, but expanded. Let me say at the outset that I do not mean to disrespect the present leaders of the two political parties when I do not include them in the expansion. They are tied to the Constitution.

Eight years later, we have not just two, but four, former prime ministers alive and, hopefully, well. Two each from the two parties.

I am not aware of the protocol involved in asking them to jointly appeal to the overseas community to work with them as a joint committee in developing programmes.

If such a connection could be established, I believe that the community abroad would see this unofficial adoption of the community as an added spark. This exercise could be a concurrent effort with those of the Government and Opposition to accelerate our nation-building.

I do not pretend that the hard line supporters of the two political parties would readily agree to such a cosy relationship, but if they accept that we have to find a solution to the growing disenchantment, both at home and abroad, with the politics that is so divisive and debilitating, then we have to search for something cosier than what we now have.

As a postscript, may I remind us that the ‘navel-strings’ of Jamaicans abroad are also ageing.

Some may not live to see 2030. So please don’t ignore this plea this time.