Wednesday, May 18, 2011

In the spirit of building bridges to Jamaica

In the spirit of building bridges to Jamaica, we are absolutely moved by the passionate discussion on the issue of allowing Jamaicans living outside of Jamaica the right to participate in all national elections. Some have argued that we should never allow such a thing to happen for several reasons, the most compelling argument being that voting without the tax obligation is an insult to Jamaicans who are obligated to pay taxes, another argument is that “outsiders” should not be allowed to participate because they would be allowed the right to vote without having to live with the consequences of their vote. Both are valid points of consideration against allowing Jamaicans living in the Diaspora the right to vote. The proponent of extending voting rights to Jamaicans living outside Jamaica argues that this right should be given for the simple fact that other democracies extend the same rights to its nationals living outside its border. Another argument is that those living in the Diaspora make significant contribution to the Jamaican economy through the remittance of money back to Jamaica. This is a significant contribution but money alone does not give rights to vote, it never has and it never should be the only factor in establishing a Jamaican national right to vote. 

We must search for something more far reaching than money, taxation issues, land ownership, or frequency of visits to Jamaica. We must hearken back to the motto we all share that out of many we are one people. We are Jamaicans separated by geography but we have never surrendered our identity. The thing we all must ask ourselves is this; are we to hold a child responsible for migrating to another country because his parents made the choice to leave? Are we to hold it against a national who for lack of opportunity chose to migrate and earn a living to support his or her family? Are we to prevent a Jamaican national from participating in all national elections because he or she will not live the consequences of the vote? The answer to the these questions are at the heart of the discussion and must be addressed fairly without the alienation of well meaning Jamaicans through the “US” versus “THEM” method of creating sides in this discussion.

We cannot and should never separate ourselves from each other by arguing why we should maintain the status quo. What we should try to do is find a way to build bridges to Jamaica that is inclusive and fair to all involved. Our country is blessed and we as a people are at the crossroad. We must choose carefully where we go from here. We have surrendered some of our brightest stars to other nations, we have also robbed each other by not being honest about our role in allowing this to happen. Let us have an honest discussion about the terms and technical considerations for allowing our nationals to participate in elections. This discussion will always fall back on the role of our government and we must accept the fact that solutions must come from us; the people. We must drive the issue and never be passive. We must also be willing to boldly establish ways and means that allow Jamaicans to build bridges to Jamaica. In so doing, our country also gains the following:

* It will strengthen links among Jamaicans at home and abroad. 
* It will allow Jamaicans to keep their nationality after adopting another one from a foreign country. 
* It will give individuals who may have lost their Jamaican nationality, an opportunity to recover it. 
* It gives the Jamaican government an added revenue stream that will broaden the tax base, thereby gaining revenue for social programs and infrastructure development.
* It also gives the government or the nation the chance to recoup its most important resource – its people. (Jamaica must reverse the brain drain)

This is a brief outline of our thinking and consideration on the issue. We encourage others to share as we try to broaden this discussion. 


  1. Arlene Dundas-Saunders:
    Excellent article reviewing all sides of the issue...I support this point of view !!!

  2. Sandra Chung Reynolds:
    ‎@Arlene, I also support this point of view!

  3. Barbara Watson:
    The current system of electing 'leaders' do not work; one would be, essentially, replacing one MANIPULATED/CONTROLLED group for another; this particular system needs to be dismantled and replaced. The question is, what should we replace the current system with?

  4. Barbara Watson:
    I believe we should make contact with community groups working on the front line and, offer them financial support to enable them to build and improve communities. Giving financial support to the government via taxes will not benefit Jamaica. Loans, via the IMF and The World Bank, is a form of control; they dont want the debt repaid.

  5. Caribbean Diaspora: "I entertain your ideas, except that people who do not contribute to a country in any shape or form should be allowed to vote. However, a lot of Caribbeans within the diaspora abroad to have Caribbean links and should be allowed to vote at their overseas Embassies where they life. If they have voting rights abroad, should they be made to pay taxes and how would this be administered? Further, there is already a tax burden in their countries of residence and it is only right that they contribute to the running of their countries of residence and building strong communities and contribute towards the development and sustainability of the country in which they live. I say this as someone of dual nationality and heritage."

  6. Sustain Jamaica:
    Jamaica should be strong enough to accept all of its citizens and collectively work together for the good of our country. We cannot and should not be distracted by issues that does not serve the greater good. The right to vote is a highly charged issue that seems to be troubling to some, that is unfortunate because at the end of the day all we are doing is maintaining the status quo that serve a very narrow interest.

    We have so much more to gain by expanding the electorate and allowing the participation of all Jamaicans regardless of border. An example is the USA, they acknowledge their own wherever in the world their citizens reside. Smart move because it allows the government the opportunity to retain the brightest and the best. America will seek out its own and fight to retain the access to its citizens. Jamaica could learn a lot from the USA in this matter.

    A country that let go of its human resource will live to regret it. Our citizens are the best asset we have and we should never ever let go without a fight. If our citizens wish to come home and help in the building process please do not exercise the poor judgment of alienating them by choosing to deny something as basic as the right to vote.