By NAN Staff Writer
News Americas, FORT LAUDERDALE, FL, Mon. Nov. 20, 2017: Jamaica’s ninth Prime Minister, Andrew M. Holness, says Jamaica needs to reconfigure its constitution to allow nationals in its Diaspora overseas to vote or run for office and his Jamaica Labor Party, (JLP), government “intends to pursue” this agenda.
The PM was answering a challenge thrown out by Don James, President of the south-east chapter of the Jamaican-American Bar Association, in opening remarks at the organization’s 10th annual awards gala in Fort Lauderdale, South Florida on Saturday night, Nov. 18, 2017.
Taking the podium minutes later as the guest speaker, Holness told Jamaicans and friends of Jamaica gathered in ballroom of the Westin Hotel that the move would be a “progressive step” and its has the support of his administration.
The PM reiterated, as he has since 2015, that he likes the French election model which allows nationals overseas to vote but their ballots are registered for only one constituency in France, and not across all constituencies, which would then have an impact on the outcome of the election.
As he did before he took office, PM Holness explained that the Diaspora vote, under a reconfigured constitution, would mean that Jamaicans abroad would have a representative in Jamaica’s Parliament who they can vote for.
Jamaicans currently living in the US and who are naturalized US citizens cannot run for office in Jamaica but can vote if they are resident there at least six months, under the current constitution.
The PM also brought nationals up to date on the progress he said his government has made on many fronts to date including the creation of 60,000 jobs recently; being number one in the Caribbean on the ease of Doing Business Rankings and boosting consumer confidence.
He touched only briefly on the hot button issue of crime and violence, saying that violence in the country is “almost cultural” and seems to be used over diplomacy to settle conflicts. He also insisted that more can be done to curb the flow of weapons from the U.S. to Jamaica but admitted that with the JLP administration setting aside 7 percent of GDP to repay the country’s debt, there is less money to spend on education and fighting crime and corruption.
The PM also touted the National Identification System, (NIDS), legislation, saying the measure will also allow nationals in the Diaspora to apply for a national ID card to do business in Jamaica.
CHALLENGE TO DIASPORA
Meanwhile, the PM in a 30 minute plus address, urged Jamaicans in the Diaspora to ensure they “regularize themselves in the country in which you choose to live” and ensure they vote and get involved in the political process in their adopted homelands.
He said having the Jamaican Diaspora as a power base, especially in the U.S., would allow for many issues of concern to Jamaica to be addressed, including derisking.
“We need to have our people in all spheres of influence in the world … that is how we are going to ensure we move Jamaica from prosperity to poverty.”