|Jamaicans in UK Enthusiastic
about Diaspora Conference
There has been an enthusiastic response from Jamaicans in the United
Kingdom (UK) to the Jamaica Diaspora Conference set for June 16
and 17 in Kingston.
Many have described the conference as a good move and expressed
the hope that is was the first of several similar meetings.
Prime Minister P.J. Patterson first announced the conference last
August when he presented Medals of Appreciation to several UK-based
Jamaicans at the High Commission in London. He said then that the
conference would be used to develop a policy framework to protect
the interests of Jamaican nationals overseas.
Three hundred adn fifty Jamaicans are expected to attend, including
60 each from Canada and the UK and 120 from the United States of
America and 100 from Jamaica. A number of local agencies are expected
to address some of the pressing issues and concerns that have been
frequently raised by Jamaicans overseas.
High Commissioner to the UK, Her Excellency Maxine Roberts, said
the Jamaica Diaspora Conference was a wonderful opportunity for
Jamaicans living outside of the island to discuss the issues important
to them "face-to-face" with Government Ministers, officials
and their peers.
"The conference will offer to many of them the occasion to
voice concerns, offer practical suggestions, and experience firsthand
some of the many exciting new infrastructural, economic and social
projects now underway in Jamaica," she said.
"Jamaicans overseas with their range of experience, skills
and talent do have an important role to play in the island's economic
and social development. The remittances sent by these Jamaicans
make up a significant portion of the foreign exchange earned by
the island. In addition, many individuals and groups provide vital
funds, equipment and moral support to a variety of educational,
health and social projects across the island," the High Commissioner
The new President of the Jamaica Alumni Association, Eroll Walters,
said he hoped the conference would spell out programmes to encourage
Jamaicans studying overseas to return home, as well as special programmes
to encourage Jamaican professionals to participate in projects or
give overseas-based Jamaican consultants preferential treatment.
"We want to see Government policy relating to top students
trying to get them involved in Jamaica and letting them know how
they can use their skills to benefit the country. We have many highly
skilled, experienced Jamaicans who need to know how they can get
involved in high-level projects in Jamaica," he told JIS News.
Chairman of the Jamaica Society Leeds, Travis Johnson, wants the
Diaspora Conference to look at how Jamaicans overseas can lobby
the Governments in their host countries to bring about changes and
policies that will benefit Jamaica.
Paulette Simpson, Chief Representative for the Jamaica National
Building Society in the UK, said the conference was an acknowledgement
of the large contribution that overseas-based Jamaicans made to
the country's economy, not just through direct remittances but also
to the many social projects that they support.
"The conference is an excellent idea that should have happened
a long time ago. I hope that the conference will develop a series
of action points for delegates and other participants to go away
and work with, because it will provide an opportunity for networking
and for more information about economic and social development in
Jamaica," she said.
Martin Blissett of the Afro Caribbean Resource Centre in Birmingham
said he hoped the conference would come up with ideas to encourage
participation among young members of the Jamaican community and
to help them to become aware of their heritage. He expressed concern
that many of the young generation were lost in England and had very
little concept of their roots.
"These young people are lost and we run the risk of losing
them totally. They have no sense of history of their heritage and
culture, so I hope the conference looks at how to establish links
and ensure that activities are in place to deal with this issue,"
Chairman of the Jamaica Basic School Foundation, Josephine Williams,
said the issue of crime and its impact on ordinary Jamaicans should
be discussed at the conference.
She told JIS News that the conference should also look at ways
to make it easier for overseas Jamaicans to set up businesses in
Jamaica and for young people to return home.