Moving Back to Jamaica

A blog about my Move Back to Jamaica after 20+ years of living in the US. Most of the articles focus on the period from 2005-2009 when the transition was new, and at it's most challenging.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Bad Mind?

The argument being made by many Jamaicans that "we don't want no foreigner making laws for us" is an interesting one.

While the law is outdated and flawed in the light of 2008 realities, I have been surprised that the underlying sentiment remains quite strong.

In the abstract, it has a certain logic to it -- after all, who wants the heads of their government to have divided loyalties? However, in the specific, it is unrealistic.

At the outset, it's important to realize that this is a situation where there must be some kind of compromise. There is no simple solution that will fit our needs perfectly. Instead, at some point we must appeal to a dose of common-sense and practicality.

while it's fine to want politicians without divided loyalties, I cannot imagine that we actually have any in reality. Does anyone actually believe that we have a single MP who does not love Jamaica more than any other country? Does anyone actually believe that they would put another country's interest above our own?

Common-sense tells us that the few who aspire to political office while at the same time having a foreign citizenship are giving up something valuable (an easier life abroad) in order to make a contribution in a much more difficult environment. Should they be penalized?

There is nothing wrong with wanting politicians who will put Jamaica first. I argue that our political process, and economic reality already ensures that those who become viable candidates for office are already putting Jamaica first by choosing to run in the first place. In other words, it's a joke to think that we are somehow in danger of "spies" from another country who intend to promote some other country's interests.

Political office is not something that one simply falls into, by the way... we Jamaicans make damn sure of that by putting them through a baptism of fire in the nomination and election processes.

Given that we are in no danger, where is the fuel for the argument coming from?

We Jamaicans are a proud people, and like to think that we can handle our own business. Furthermore, we like our sovereignty, and anything that seems to threaten it is something we believe we must defend against.

However, this is a case in which we our pride may take us to a place that makes no sense for us to be. Do we really want to get to the point where we:
-- continue to take rights away from Jamaicans who live overseas, even as we encourage their remittances?
(The hypocrisy of this would seem to be unbearable.)
-- encourage them to return, while telling them they have lost some of their rights?
-- promote the idea of them becoming US citizens, the better to serve Jamaica, while at the same time penalizing their choice?

We simply cannot have our cake and eat it too. While the high-minded goal of having leaders with undivided loyalty is fine, our attempts to ensure that desire through the laws of citizenship are outdated, and reflect very old thinking.

The truth is, who we really want in office are world citizens who have travelled widely, attended schools all over the world, and worked in a variety of countries. And yes, we want them to have citizenships from all over the globe because in the end, we benefit as a people.

When George Bush was elected, he was one of the least travelled Presidents in the world. His ignorance has helped to produce a stalemate in Iraq, and has served to deplete any good-will that America was granted after 9/11.

A bunch of Jamaicans leading our country who have never left Jamaica for more than a shopping trip or vacation is not a prescription for success. It would rob us of the cosmopolitan thinking that we now need more than ever to survive in an increasingly flattened world.

As for the argument that says that politicians must be made to suffer for their decisions by being forced to live in Jamaica... well, this just strikes me as a case of "bad-mind." There is nothing stopping a politician from migrating to another country the day after they leave office, and to try to restrain them in order to somehow punish them seems harsh.

We would go further if we trusted what we know... no-one comes back to Jamaica to run for office who intends to sell us out to a foreign country. We are not in danger of that happening.

However, we can quite easily discourage Jamaicans abroad from participating in Jamaican life, and in fact have already done so, as far as they are concerned. We need to trust our common sense, and change the laws to reflect what's most important to us.


At 5/15/2008 5:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do you make comments such as these:

1. "The truth is, who we really want in office are world citizens who have travelled widely, attended schools all over the world, and worked in a variety of countries. And yes, we want them to have citizenships from all over the globe because in the end, we benefit as a people".

Why do you think that creating an elitist circle will help Jamaica? What empirical evidence from other islands who share the same demographic qualities as we do, do you have? What benefits will come to the average man on the street?

2.A bunch of Jamaicans leading our country who have never left Jamaica for more than a shopping trip or vacation is not a prescription for success. It would rob us of the cosmopolitan thinking that we now need more than ever to survive in an increasingly flattened world.

What empirical evidence do you have that if you have lived overseas you are a far better choice than someone who has lived amongst the ordinary people? Why should the ordinary people elect you? Because you have lived abroad? Give me a break! Let me just say that you're not the only person who has lived abroad....I have lived in Europe and travelled on diplomatic passports.....but does that make me have a better understanding than the person who has lived in his/her community?

Personally, I think there is some undertone in your message that we are all idiots and we need someone from overseas or some Jamaican who has lived abroad to come back and eject us out of our ignorance! I think you need to rethink your statements! It is not that there are no qualified persons without a foreign passport living in Jamaica. What has happened is that factor such as the salary scale which would make a qualified person think twice. The government work is not as cut and dry as you see it.

What contribution do YOU think that YOU could make that no other Jamaican who holds only J'can citizenship could? Even if you look at this thing statistically, there is probably no relationship between holding a foreign passport and improving the plight of the country. Living in the US doesn't make you more cosmopolitan than any other Jamaican.

At 5/15/2008 5:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, it is the LAW OF THE LAND.....all these people who hold dual citzenships want us to break the law for convenience. If you think that Jamaica is so great, why don't you drop your foreign citizenship prior to holding certain sensitive government posts? Why must you hold on to another state? How much you bet me that they would have to have a referrendum on the issue and all you foreigners will be in for a surprise! If you hold US citizenship and want to rule over some black people then go to the US Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico or Guam etc. If you hold a British Passport and you want to rule over some black people, there are the BOT's....I bet Cayman and Bermuda would just kick them to where the sun doesn't shine!

You can contribute to public life.....there are so many charities around as well as executive agencies....what's the big deal? Do you want to be a minister so badly? And by the way, the minister makes very few decisions. It's the Permanent Secretary and the technocrats who are really the maybe you want to try one of those posts?

At 5/15/2008 7:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry but I have to read and reread this article to believe what you have written. When you say: "Common-sense tells us that the few who aspire to political office while at the same time having a foreign citizenship are giving up something valuable (an easier life abroad) in order to make a contribution in a much more difficult environment. Should they be penalized?"

What exactly are you saying? The we natives are ungrateful that these people are not living abroad and are here serving us idiots...since none of our own kind could? Let me just state for the record that a lot of these people who are living in Jamaica on a green card or US citizenship (in particular), are not here because they enjoy hard life. In fact it is just the opposite. All their lives they have been part of an elitist circle, who shop and party here, there and everywhere. These are people whose skin hue has been able to get them just about everywhere...they were taught as little girls how to play with their dolls and tea sets and then they would be going to some elitist school and get married to someone in their socio-economic circle....and they wouldn't have to work. They would spend days by the pool or picking up their little ones who enjoy the same replicated lifestyle. Then you have those people who are here because they never had life so good....imagine you can get good domestic labour for US$50 per day maximum, to do all your dirty work. Most of these people are not qualified to do anything except laud their social status over many a poor they are not here because life in the US is great and they enjoy a hard life. They are here because when they are in the US they are not considered to be "elite" nor are they qualified for specialised they have to keep themselves here and try to get into the sphere of influence. I think you really need to rethink your viewpoint!

At 5/15/2008 8:30 AM, Blogger Living in Barbados said...

Getting past the invective, I would support Francis rethinking some of the statements. But also, Jamaican Girl, don't paint a picture you want to knock it down easily. I can take you to a part of Jamaica where there are many dual citizens, whose skins are dark, dark. They were born in Jamaica, left as Britons before independence, then became Jamaicans (a new category) after independence. Some have single nationality, some have dual. All have decided to return to Jamaica because that's what they always wanted. Many have left their expanded families in Britain, because they did not have the same motivation, being born in England of Jamaican parents. The have to tolerate being called "foreign", yet these returnees work or not depending on circumstances, but know what it was like to be really foreign and perhaps despised from their time in England, so they get a bit raw with that term used by their Jamaican country people.

They pay taxes in Jamaica and vote, and maybe also pay taxes in the UK (depending). They build homes and start businesses and support Jamaica and Jamaicans directly in indirectly. They often find themselves also support the UK directly and indirectly. Everyone of them worked hard all of their lives and did not have it hard. Many left Jamaica because they had good economic reasons to do so at the time, and returned because they wanted to "be home". So dont diss them. Few of those I know want to be politicians, more because of age, not lack of public spirit. Their wish to do something positive for the country is attested to by what they do not by the positions they hold.

At 5/15/2008 8:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know if you have read where my comments are pertaining to those who hold UNITED STATES citizenship in particular. Why? Because Commonwealth citizens are exempt from that clause in the constitution as long as they live here for i think at least 2 years. Also, I have lived and gone to school in England so I am fully aware of those people you speak of. In fact I went to boarding school in England....and I didn't go there as someone who was sent away from here by goodly parents. At the time my family lived there.

Anyone who lives in Jamaica right this second can attest to what I am saying. All those people you see holding US citizenship living here, have never had life so good despite the crime and all the other daily woes. I wasn't speaking of those who left here on the Herpinia (sp).

At 5/15/2008 9:34 AM, Blogger Living in Barbados said...

Jamaican girl, I did see the focus on USA, but to me it's a false distinction. I also know plenty of US and Canadian duals, to whom my comment would apply, with a certain generational/age difference. I think there is a group that fits your mould, but I do not feel that they are the majority. I could beg you to give me the supporting stats :-).

I also know several US duals (fewer because I was born in JA then went to the UK as a boy, but interesting as I met them after I went to work in the US and since going back to JA regularly) who retain that facility for their business dealings, travelling frequently to/from the US and now having even more reason to have to fall foul of the INS/Homeland Security nonsenses. There is a certain confusion caused by politicians on the one hand urging Jamaicans to become US citizens so that they can vote and help influence US lawmakers in ways that should help JA, and for those people to find that this bars them if they should seek certain public offices. But, like you I feel there are many ways to help bake a better cake and politics in but one route.

At 5/15/2008 10:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let me reiterate that the comments are for UNITED STATES citizens. Canada, being a part of the British Commonwealth, is not affected by the clause. If you are a United States citizen then you cannot participate in certain sensitive areas of decision making. Why is that so hard to understand and accept? If you ask the ordinary man in Jamaica what he beleives about this dual citizenship issue you will hear all of what I have said before. Many straw polls have been taken. The answer is always the same. Jamaicans beleive that persons holding non-Commonwealth dual citizenship should not be allowed to sit in government. If you notice the title of this post: BAD MIND? It is because the writer has sensed that the nation at large takes this position. So should it be forced upon us? Should we change the constitution for convenience? If the majority of Jamaicans feel this way, I assure you, if for no other reason but votes, it will remain as is. Nobody says you can't participate in political life, you just can't participate in certain sensitive areas. Also, do you beleive that there are people here who are not capable? Is there a high association between US Passports and political know how? Come on! As a Jamaican, should I marry a US Citizen and relocate and stay there for 60 years, do you think the US would elect me as the President? Even in Canada there are certain posts you can hold at the provincial level as an immigrant and then after you have your citizenship you are eligible for other why can't these people give up their US citizenship (for example) if they want to become an MP? No faith? Also if you are an MP you're not supposed to be engaging in other business apart from the GOJ I don't buy into this thing about business ties!

At 5/15/2008 11:15 AM, Blogger Dennis Jones said...

I do understand the US aspect, but don't accept it because it makes little sense. The Commonwealth "umbrella" made a sort of sense once upon a time. But at the least once certain countries became republics, the thin logic of being a unit, and broadly similar, quickly loses sense. So of the 31 Commonwealth countries, only 16 are NOT republics meaning that they do not see the Queen (or British monarch) as head of state, or titular head, which is what gave the constitutional construct some kind of logic. Admitted that most of those republics (bar Guyana) are in Africa or the Indian subcontinent and host few Jamaican duals then the point is less pressing. There is nothing particular about the US that should have it singled out (or highlighted) any more than France. The argument I make is about symmetry and if some arbitrary rule like "living in a place" for 2 years (let's not argue the detail) can "cleanse" the Commonwealth duals, why could it not also apply to the US?

At 5/15/2008 12:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well sorry to hear that you don't accept it, but based on the general feeling (which is why this post would make sense), most Jamaicans think that we would like to preserve that. A few extremists like myself would love to have it changed to EXCLUDE even those who are from the Commonwealth. However, logic and convenience arguements are not holding any water....the fact of the matter is that the constitution says so...and that is that. Now if you wish to lobby for change so that all and sundry, including tourists, can particpate in those sensitive areas, then fine....but until then, all people can do is write and write and's the law. I say tourists, considering that their contribution also rivals remittances so shouldn't we just allow them to particpate as well?

At 5/15/2008 1:12 PM, Blogger Living in Barbados said...

No straw men, please. Who mentioned tourists? We are discussing nationals or citizens of the country who happen to have another nationality too, by choice or by accident. Treat all of those the same.

At 5/15/2008 1:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

well it seems that the ecuse is being made that since these folks have been sending remittances they have a right to if tourism rivals remittances and they are almost on par, then why not allow them to have a say as well.

back to the issue. while you may feel strongly about it we who live here and who have been living here object to it. You don't live here, based on your profile, and you have not lived here for most of your life. Therefore, I really don't think you're in a position to object to the general wishes of the population. (that's just my opinion). Jamaicans do not want it....should we be forced to accept it? What makes the author of this blog more sophisticated or knowledgable than myself? That is the point I am trying to get across? Does living in an industrial setting make one more "sophisticated and cosmopolitan" thus more knowledgable than people who have lived the life and gone to school here? Does it then qualify him to know more about Third World dynamics more than say a UWI graduate? What proof is there? I subscribe to World System Theory and let me tell you Jamaica and the Caribbean won't arrive at developed status....never! We might get some sort of ease from the strain....but to arrive at the so called develop status? I don't beleive we will. Not when the core is famous for keeping the periphery in a state of subordination.

At 5/15/2008 1:58 PM, Blogger Living in Barbados said...

We are discussing a set of constitutional rights. While I might not have lived in Jamaica most of my life that is not pertinent to the issue; as a Jamaican I have and expect to have certain rights in my country. Now if I am a dual national, then I accept that there could be barriers put up to avoid some sense of "foreign" influence. Let's not go into who is a better citizen, those who live in the country a long time or not, etc. Many who work as diplomats or in international fields (such as myself) don't get the chance to live at home much of their lives but they are there serving or support their country. That "in" or "out" approach could get very complicated and wind up being totally contradictory, as well as saying to people who for good reasons live outside for a long time that they are not wanted. That is a fear that many who migrated or are the offsprings of migrants have about a move back or to Jamaica. We could, for example, tell Micheal Lee Chin to just stay put in Canada, etc. and keep his money there too. The Constitution should be meaningful and fair to those who are citizens, and not make false or arbitrary distinctions, which is one of the problems with the provision regarding the US. Nuff said.

At 5/15/2008 3:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well again, Michael Lee Chin wouldn't have a problem serving as an MP in Jamaica. He is a citizen of a Commonwealth country, so he would be eligible because he certainly has been resident for at least 2 years. Also, if you are spending time in the international field and would like to serve in CERTAIN OFFICES in the political arena then you should ensure that you are not the holder of US citizenship (for example, since it's the one that has been hotly debated). If one has lived in Geneva because of diplomatic reasons, then you should maintain your Jamaican citizenship. Nobody is saying you cannot serve as a political officer in certain areas, however, if the area requires that you surrender your US citizenship for example, then you just have to do that. What is wrong with that? Why can't people obey the law like everyone else?

I referred to who is more knowledgable than who, based on the post. The post made certain statements about the fact that Jamaicans who live aborad are more "cosmopolitan" and therefore would serve Jamaica's needs more than people here. I was asking how we qualify such a statement. The point I was making is that we have enough qualified people here in Jamaica. The problem would you get into politics. Have you seen the people who are on both political parties? They are all friends and/or family. They have generational roots in the party. Do you honestly think that you could land at the airport tomorrow and get into the political parties like magic? There is so much more you need to realise about poor Jamaica. On another note, not because people dream of returning to Jamaica, makes them:

- Highly skilled
- A prime candidate to serve in government.

First you would have to be elected. In the case of Daryl Vaz, he has been living here forever. Foreigners wouldn't be as familiar with the lay of the land and the intricate details of a community. So tell me, how would such a person aspire to be elected over a candidate who has probably lived in the community for ages?

At 5/16/2008 1:12 AM, Blogger Dennis Jones said...

You make some good points, and as I said too, Francis needs to review his statements.

On the question "Why can't people obey the law like everyone else?" several Jamaican commentators have said, in different ways and in different places, that Jamaica is a lawless society. So, some may say, "we luv brek law". No more from me.

At 5/16/2008 3:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well to want the constitution, which has been framed for nearly 50 years, to be broken for the sake of convenience is really appalling. So are you suggesting that we may as well break that since we break everything else? All that is happening here in this situation is that people want to come home and automatically become an MP. They don't even realise the have to be very familiar with your community and even fall prey to all manners of evil....after the people recognise you as the Messiah, you have to try and beat the other man who comes as the on that note, you wouldn't stand a chance in hell, especially if the opponent is a long standing MP where it is second nature to bring them abck in, or a long standing community member. So would it all be worth it?

Anyway, I notice Francis has said nothing on the issue.....but let me just say that if you have lived overseas for a period of time, it doesn't make you more knowledgable of the reality of the every day Jamaican. In fact I would posit that you are not in a position to deal with our real life issues.

At 5/16/2008 4:12 AM, Blogger Living in Barbados said...

I'm sure Francis will comment, if and when he is ready.

If you posit that only those who have lived in the place for a while can deal with its problems, then again, we run into a very odd world. And given Jamaica's history of emigration, you put out the door a bunch of people who want to get back in and try to contribute. Those who have been outside can see things from a different perspective, maybe better, maybe worse, but different, and that can help solve problems, not least because they may come with few vested interests. You with your experience of boarding school in England have a different view than if you had done all your schooling in JA. That's often why international companies send their employees to different places to broaden their experiences, and often to see that many problems are not so different in other parts of the world. Take me, for example, living and working in Africa for several years, or living and working in the UK or US for several years. When I go back to Jamaica and see how people deal with what they call problems I have a perspective that puts that into a context of some 70-80% of people living a basically rural life, sometimes in a war-torn setting, on less than US$1 a day, with no running water, electricity, medical supplies, etc., yet surviving. So, I can think of solutions that come from a different starting point. Similarly, at the other extreme, from the many years living and working in an industrialized country, that is well-equipped, has not been at war, and has plenty of wealth to spread around, gives me another perspective. You can't throw away contributors just because they have not lived the life in the country. It's not just the poor who can help themselves, or women, or men, etc. Only Jamaicans who have lived in the country a long time can coach Jamaicans, etc? Go home Simoes? Pick your group, the argument is the same. And what of the motto "Out of many, one people"?

I'm saying that whenever the Constitution was framed, and whatever good we thought of it then, take time to stand back from it and ask does this do what we want for our society now? That question is asked all the time of laws. Britain has no Constitution, and many things stem from the Doomsday Book nearly 1000 years ago. But just because something was created does not give it the status of never to be changed. Like wearing wigs in court, and Parliamentary procedures, do these things serve the purpose we want them to? Are they still pertinent? Let's not just stick with it's on the book, we can't budge.

At 5/16/2008 11:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, well, it appears that some stern thoughts are flowing. From the purist to the liberal, comments are propelling a quality discussion. Here's my take.

Our constitution is good but needs major reform. With globalization, various technological advancement and socio-economic issues, citizenship becomes paramount. One can't decide where you should born but can decide freely(if granted) and intellectually where to hold allegiance(whether fully or partly). I think it all comes down to MOTIVES.

No one born or naturalized should be prevented from running for certain government office but the MOTIVES along the lines of allegiance is to firmly established that through thick and thin, he/she will stand with the country. Taking Jamaica's policital culture, which tends to breed selfishness, a power hungry, and might I say arrogant mentality, this isn't always the case. For as you know many officials (of a policy making position ) of dual citizenships, might or will unscrupulously gain wealth for him/herself or the priveledged, knowing a viable alternative (US, Canada, England, etc) awaits if wrong is discovered. A paradigm shift is need to change this behavior.

I do agree with Francis that some traveling(while not extensive)would do our people(concurrent/eventual leaders) good, albeit information is readily available to us via the internet. The experience, I think brings different perspective, strategic and clarity in tackling certain decisions. We(Jamaicans) while not exempt from same issues of other countries, can learn and apply the necessary approaches to reap success. I'm a vehement supporter that a leader(in this case government) should have had knowledgeable, first-hand experiences of the government before becoming an government official. The culture, beliefs and issues must be understood before.

What Jamaica needs are leaders that are unbias, fair, consciense free, strong, perserving and totally committed to the upliftment of the country.

At 5/16/2008 5:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I said, if you wish to lobby for Constitutional Reform, then by all means do so. However, there are certain aspects of the constitution that will require a referendum. So what happens if the public at large decides that the space they share called Jamaica, should NOT change that clause in the Constitution, what can Jamaicans abroad with non-Commonwealth citizenship do? Do we accept the fact that people want this to be forced upon us? How do you know that people here cannot solve the plantation matters?

Anyway, people can talk and talk and talk all they want. Each night the news broadcasts a new victory for those fighting those who are breaching the current Constitution.


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