Sometimes, clarifications are necessary when I speak or write on matters relating to Diaspora engagement. People ask why there is so much confusion about the governance of Diaspora organizations and the government of Jamaica. Let’s make this clear; the government has no authority over any person or organization in any other country than within Jamaica. No law in Jamaica applies to the Diaspora, where or how we live, work, play, or decide to give back to our country. Jamaicans in the Diaspora (USA, Canada, UK, or outlying areas are responsible only to the governments where they live. However, you must abide by the laws of Jamaica whenever you return home for a visit, business, donating or vacation.
The advisors to the government ( the representatives of the Global Jamaica Diaspora Council (GJDC), who were recently elected, are or will become representatives for the Jamaican government and are NOT Diaspora Community representatives. Yes, we voted for them, but only (from the perspective of the Jamaican government) that we identify the person we want to be our representative to advise the government of Jamaica, not as our Diaspora representatives. When those elected persons accept the advisor role, they operate on a Jamaican government’s terms of reference (TOR) on a board chaired by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade. The minister could ideally appoint any person to sit on this GJDC board without our involvement; however, an election is put in place to allow us to identify that individual. The effect is the same; however, whether the minister selects the person independently or we vote to submit that person to the minister, the result is that the individual becomes representative (advisor) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs & Foreign Trade. To some persons, the appointment invalidated the development of the election process.
The Jamaican Diaspora does not have a governance structure; it’s a collective of all the individuals and organizations that operate in the Diaspora that retains any semblance of a system. Does the Diaspora require a structure? Well, if it does, it must be designed by the people living in the Diaspora from their respective communities, not by the government of Jamaica. Jurisdiction and borders prevents the Jamaican from governing people living in other countries.
When the original plans were implemented in a collaborative effort between Jamaica ad members of the Diaspora 20 years ago, it was intended to facilitate engagement, support, and partnership between both bodies. Some vital Jamaican entities were instituted to help build and maintain that relationship; the Jamaica Diaspora Institute (JDI), the Jamaica Diaspora Foundation (JDF), and the Biennial Jamaica Diaspora Conference, all intended to give access to Diaspora members means to give back. Also, as foreigners, we are tasked to develop the Jamaica Diaspora movement to build awareness in our respective regions of giving back to our country through philanthropy, business, investment, and trade.
Our charge in the Diaspora has not changed, but the infrastructure from Jamaica has developed into other than was intended. With this change, there is confusion about the role of government in Diaspora affairs. Many organizations are doing great work to enhance their home country. Jamaicans have shown that they care about their homeland. We should continue to make our love and passion shine in helping people where they are. An intentional effort should be made to galvanize action for the betterment of our country, but if it doesn’t happen, we are already doing the work.
For further clarifications on jurisdictional regulations and how our advisors are classified, we (especially GJDC Reps in America) should refer to the roles of foreign agents, governments, and appointees in the U.S. FARA Act of 1938.
About the Author
Leo Gilling is a Diaspora strategist and engagement advocate and chairman of the Jamaica Diaspora Taskforce Action Network
Photo – Deposit photo