The Jamaican government is seriously interested in the contributions nationals in the Diaspora, many of whom are highly skilled professionals, can make to help the country transition to first-class, first-world status.
Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Marlene Malahoo-Forte gave the assurance while in Toronto last week for a series of official events that included a town hall meeting with nationals at the Jamaican Canadian Association (JCA) centre.
As the minister with responsibility for Diaspora Affairs, she updated nationals on some of the preparatory plans for the fourth biennial Jamaica Diaspora conference, to be held in Ocho Rios from June 15-17.
The conference theme is “One Nation: Jamaica & the Diaspora in Partnership.”
“The theme is intended to signal to you the message of the policy that we are moving forward with,” said Malahoo-Forte, who was appointed a senator and government minister in July 2009. “We, the government of Jamaica, are engaging you, the people of Jamaica resident outside of Jamaica, to help with the development of our country.
“We want to hear your concerns, we want to hear your presentations, we want to see how the national policy can benefit from your experience and we want to know how the things we do back home impact you and how the things you are doing here impact the national image.
“What does Jamaica mean to you and how prepared are you to step out of your comfort zone? How prepared are you to engage your government in a constructive way?”
Jamaica is aiming to achieve developed country status by 2030.
It’s estimated there are nearly 300,000 Jamaican nationals living in Canada, the majority in the Greater Toronto Area. Overall, about three million Jamaicans live outside of Jamaica.
The Jamaica Diaspora and Consul Affairs department was launched in 2002 to strengthen the bond with overseas nationals and encourage their participation.
“It’s part of the government’s policy through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade to find a structured way of engaging nationals,” said Malahoo-Forte, a former resident magistrate and assistant director of public prosecutions. “The nation of Jamaica comprises not only Jamaicans resident at home but also those abroad.
“I don’t profess to have all the answers, but I have a very clear vision of where I want Jamaica to go and I have a very clear vision of how the engagement between the government and the Diaspora is going to be…We have problems, but the potential we have as a people far exceed the problems that we face.”
Malahoo-Forte, a 2007 Yale World Fellow and Harvard University Kennedy School of Government Public Administration graduate, made it clear she’s committed and proud to represent all Jamaicans, regardless of their political affiliation.
“I have no political baggage and I had no history of political involvement prior to my appointment,” she said. “My interest is in the nation. The government of Jamaica represents all Jamaicans…I care not what your political persuasion is. I really don’t care.”
The inaugural Jamaica Diaspora conference was held in June 2004 and the Jamaican Diaspora Canadian Foundation was launched six months later to advance the interests of nationals here.
Close to 150 nationals in Canada are expected to attend this year’s Diaspora conference at the Sunset Jamaica Grande Resort, Spa and Conference Centre.