There will be no major changes to the itinerary of events in Jamaica to mark the country’s 50th anniversary this year even though there has been a recent change in government, says junior minister, Arnaldo Brown.
The Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Foreign Trade gave the assurance at a media conference while in Toronto last weekend for the Jamaica Canadian Association’s (JCA) annual Boonoonoonos Brunch.
Brown is the first government minister to pay an official visit to Canada since the Portia Simpson Miller-led People’s National Party (PNP) regained political power in last December’s general elections.
“Certainly, with every change in administration, there are certain changes that are automatic and will take place,” said Brown, who defeated Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) candidate Camille Buchanan by 576 votes in East Central St. Catharine. “Those alterations are happening and I don’t believe that they are going to impede or disrupt the progress of the celebrations.”
New Minister of Youth & Culture, Lisa Hanna, said last week that the Jamaica 50 Secretariat – the organization overseeing the celebrations to mark the golden anniversary – will be re-evaluated and restructured because of concerns over the use of public funds.
The audit will not affect celebrations in Toronto.
Jamaica 50 Anniversary Committee (Toronto) co-chair Joe Halstead told Share the Jamaican government is providing administrative and logistical support for the local celebrations.
“They have made available space at the consulate for meetings and are sponsoring related fora and receptions,” said Halstead. “All of the events we are having will be sustained through private sponsorship and self-generated revenue. Some events, like the August 11 gala at the Metro Convention Centre where we are expecting 2,000 patrons, will generate revenue for us while others like the one-month collaborative art exhibition between the National Gallery of Jamaica and the Art Gallery of Mississauga will cost us money. In the end, we expect to be left with about $100,000 that will be used for a people-based or physical legacy project.”
Brown, who is responsible for the Foreign Trade and Diaspora portfolios, promised that the large Jamaica Diaspora population will get his attention. He said that while nationals in the Diaspora are contributing to Jamaica’s economic development, he doesn’t believe a serious systematic effort has been made to harness their skills, knowledge and professional networks.
“It’s for that reason that I want to institutionalize the Diaspora because we have been operating without a policy framework,” said the Glenmuir High School graduate who was a special advisor to Minister of Development, Dr. Paul Robertson, from 2003 to 2005. “There are countries like Israel, India, Mexico and Ireland that have well developed Diaspora policies in place and have been able to leverage their Diaspora. What we want to do is engender a concept of a borderless Jamaica that will take into account Jamaicans wherever they live as part of our country’s landscape.
“We will work with them to develop not only Jamaica, but also to enhance their lives in the countries in which they reside. We are seeking to foster a symbiotic relationship because we believe there is a mutual benefit to be derived from such an engagement of our citizens beyond our shores.”
The married father of two encouraged eligible Jamaicans to become citizens of the countries in which they reside so they can enjoy the full benefits of that state.
“Jamaica recognizes dual citizenship and therefore you are not less Jamaican or less patriotic if you become full-fledged citizens in the countries you live in,” he said. “Once you get involved in the social, political and economic fabric of the society in which you live, we as a collective of Jamaicans stand to benefit from that.”
A lawyer by profession, Brown also addressed his government’s desire to sever ties with the British monarch as the head of state and the London-based Privy Council as the final appellate jurisdiction.
Dominica, Trinidad & Tobago and Guyana are the other Caribbean countries with republican status that have remained Commonwealth members and while12 Caribbean countries are signatories to the Caribbean Court of Justice established in February 2011, only Barbados, Guyana and Belize have replaced the Privy Council as their final court of appeal.
“The move to republican status and the establishment of the Caribbean Court of Justice are two steps in my opinion that would finalize the process of our political independence,” said Brown, a former chair of the Pharmaceutical Appeals Tribunal and director of the National Insurance Fund Board.
Brown is part of a cadre of fresh new faces in Jamaican politics. He said he developed a passion for politics while attending the University of the West Indies Mona campus.
“I was enamored with the period of the 1970s and what it represented in terms of the struggle for social justice and equality in the Jamaican context,” said Brown who graduated from UWI in 2000. “I was more impressed with the view of (late Jamaican Prime Minister) Michael Manley at the time in regards to the role of the state in educating the population. I believe I am a beneficiary of those politics and I therefore felt that my involvement in the political process would allow me the opportunity to ensure that other Jamaicans and, by extension, Caribbean people would have an opportunity to access education at all levels.”
Brown was a senior consultant to National Security Minister Dr. Peter Phillips in the last PNP administration.
By RON FANFAIR