Jamaican Diaspora calls for election accountability

Akelia Maitland,New York-based Northeast US Advisory Board Representative for Jamaica.
Akelia Maitland

Jamaican Diaspora leaders in the United States’ northeastern region have called on Jamaica’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure that elected members of the Global Jamaica Diaspora Council are representatives of their communities and “not solely advisors to the ministry.”

Akelia Maitland, the New York-based Northeast US Advisory Board Representative, said on Sunday that the Jamaican Diaspora leaders’ call comes as the Jamaica Ministry of Foreign recently stated that “Board members are not there on community’s behalf as a representative.”

Maitland said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has taken the “alarming move of overriding” her responsibility in commissioning an elections committee “and has currently established their own elections committee that will be running ‘Diaspora’ elections.”

She said the ministry took this move because, “based on strong feedback from community leaders,” she has called for “the responsibility outlined for the new council members to expand to include representation, a long-standing concern from the Diaspora.”

Maitland noted that Jamaica Prime Minister, Andrew Holness said, in 2015, that “the Diaspora’s voice needs to be represented and that he will address it.”

“Instead, the ministry and the current board are considered to be actively eroding instead of bolstering this effort,” she said, adding that several former board members have reported they acted as their community’s voice “and now agree with the call that their practice on behalf of the community should be formalized.”

“If the Board can come together in two days to override the community they don’t reside in, then they can come together in two days to put in writing that those who are elected are free to represent the community,” Maitland continued. “The community’s call for representation must be addressed by those running for a position on the council, as well as by the government-constructed Electoral Committee.”

She said one consistent theme among many community leaders is the need to be organized as a Diaspora, including the development of “an effective Diaspora-driven mechanism that is formidable and responsive.”

Maitland said that process is now underway.

“This is a call for true partnership and is not ‘us against them’ since everyone loses when there’s no representation,” she said.

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