Forward Home: Does the Caribbean Diaspora have power?

| November 13, 2012

Darby Etienne MA Diplomacy

This was a film screened at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, under the auspices of His Excellency, Garvin Nicholas, High Commissioner for Trinidad and Tobago, London – a 50 minute documentary which explored the contribution of Caribbean people living in global cities to their home countries development.

The Executive Producer of this film is Dr. Keith Nurse who is based at the Shridath Ramphal Centre, International Trade Law, Policy and Services, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus. Interestingly, the film examined the various economic relationships (remittances, trade, travel and business) that exist between home countries and their Diaspora.

During the Q&A, Dr Nurse drew attention to the expected annual decrease in the level of income earned from foreign money transfers forecasting an end in year 2030 when the majority of first generation Caribbean and a significant number of second generation Caribbean will have passed.

As note worthy as it is, this information presents the one missing component, the inability of the Diaspora to express their democratic right to vote during elections and having the votes accepted in the country as absentee votes. This is a pivotal way that the Caribbean Diaspora as a whole will be taken seriously oversees thereby compelling the Governments to choose their representative wisely.

Photo courtesy caribjournal.com

To emphasize Diaspora importance let me share with you a recent conversation with a Caribbean gentleman who emigrated with his mother from the Antilles to Great Britain on a boat when he was 9 years old.

Mr Jules arrived in Spain where the boat first docked. When his mother paid a Spanish national shoe shiner to shine his shoes, that was his first encounter with European Caribbean activities. This spurred unconsciously his activities in the black movement in England during the 80s and 90s.

Darby: I would think that someone with your vast amount of experience in understanding the cultural differences in Europe compared with someone born and raised in the Caribbean would be a great asset to the Government’s Foreign Services.

Mr Jules: No absolutely no! I would never be considered as I never went to school with the leaders. 

Darby: But there are continuous complaints within the Caribbean Diaspora that political parties tend to use us to help with elections but not for Governing.

Mr Jules: Yes, and come looking for us again 4 to 5 years later. 

Darby:  An area of concern is the blatant disregard for minority Ethnic commerce between the missions and their Diaspora communities.

Mr Jules:  I notice the Caribbean High Commissions have for years chosen to hire Asian and Arab drivers! … Why is that?  You mean there are no good drivers from the Caribbean with an English licence?

Darby:  It’s not drivers alone my friend, they only use European realtors instead of Caribbean businesses in the property rental market.

Mr Jules: That shows no regards for the relatives back in the islands paying taxes,  you know their UK relatives will still find the money to send the barrels down in time for Christmas.

Darby:  Regardless of this I must say Foreign Affairs employs highly educated staff but not with the experience of the European culture which you Mr Jules gained over the years here in the UK.

Mr Jules:  Well for the years I have been here in the UK the only time I see them working with the Diaspora is for cultural activities like national and Independence Day and for audiences for high powered visitors.

Darby: Well Mr Jules, I ask this question to the Diaspora…

Is there a reason why the Diaspora is not included in the developmental link?

As was highlighted in the film the first generation of people from the Caribbean were invited to develop Britain after the war.  By extension they had to fight another war within Britain in order to be players and contributors to Caribbean economies. So for their contribution to continue to be unrecognised by the political powers in the Caribbean this can be classified as delusional a characteristic particularly common among Caribbean parliamentarians, permanent secretaries, top administration personnel and amongst overseas diplomats.

Next week……….’meritocracy, privilege and ineptitude’.

Anyone with the answer to the issues raised please feel free to write your comments below or email me on darby@caribdirect.com.

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Category: Caribbean Diplomacy, Commonwealth Political Insights, Politics

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