No consensus on diaspora members serving in Gov’t locally – Smith

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

The question of whether members of the diaspora should be allowed to hold public office in Jamaica remains a contentious issue, with no clear consensus in sight.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, addressed the matter during a post-Cabinet press briefing which coincided with the 10th Biennial Jamaica Diaspora Conference in Montego Bay, St James on Wednesday.

According to Johnson Smith, opinions on the issue are divided both locally and within the diaspora community, and have been so for years.

“There is still no single view whether among the diaspora or in Jamaica about this issue, meaning (that) there are diasporans who believe that they should be a part of Government; that they’re able to serve at every level and in every way in their country of birth,” the minister said.

“… And then there are diasporans who believe that if they have moved away… that they should not (be part of governance in Jamaica), (and) that they serve in different ways,” she explained.

The minister emphasised that the issue is grounded in the Jamaican Constitution, where it defines eligibility to serve in the country at the parliamentary level.

Currently, persons who hold dual Commonwealth citizenship can serve in the Jamaican Parliament.

Johnson Smith noted that the Constitutional Reform Committee (CRC) has considered the matter of dual citizens serving in Parliament, and the committee will likely continue to discuss it.

“It’s a constitutional issue… I think that if you consider the constitutional perspective, that is a discussion which continues locally and in the diaspora, and then if you consider that there is no single view, and therefore, the conversation actually continues to happen even among those persons who live overseas, you recognise it is a matter that continues to have differing perspectives, differing views, and it is just ripe for continued discussions,” said Johnson Smith.

The CRC has recommended that Jamaican citizenship be the sole qualifying criterion to serve in the House of Representatives.

Opposition Leader Mark Golding did not agree with that move, and has called for a discussion to take place around considering members of the diaspora to serve in Parliament.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness has shared a similar view of diasporans serving as parliamentarians, but has contended that persons aspiring to be prime minister should not hold dual nationality.

Golding, who has admitted to being a British citizen, has been under pressure to renounce that citizenship since the revelation came last month.