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Veteran Jamaican broadcaster says no to Diaspora vote

Veteran Jamaican broadcaster and City Commissioner for the South Florida community of Miramar, Winston Barnes says Jamaicans who reside outside the country have no right to vote in the elections of the country of their birth.

Barnes, who hosts a popular talk show on WAVS Radio, said the decision about who wields political power in Jamaica must solely be in the hands of those who live there as those persons will have to live with the choice.

Jamaicans abroad have long clamoured for the right to vote in the country of their birth and have pointed to the huge contribution they have made to national development through remittances and other ventures.

Barnes, however, disagrees.

“Some members of the Jamaican Diaspora are convinced that they should be allowed to vote in elections in Jamaica. I disagree for a number of reasons,” Barnes said.

“Most countries which indulge in this practice allow for overseas nationals to vote for a president, not individual members of parliament etc. In addition, I believe that the consequences of any vote is borne primarily by those living where the vote decision is executed, not those living in the Diaspora,” he continued. “While I totally agree that remittances not only help the financial viability of the country, this money is never sent directly to say the Bank of Jamaica or the finance ministry, but to individual members of families.”

Should Jamaicans in the Diaspora be allowed to vote?


Barnes also called on Jamaicans who live abroad and return to the island for vacation to curb their tendency to give the impression that they have loads of cash to spread around and that life in the US is a bed of roses.

“In a recent published interview, I asked Jamaicans in South Florida to not be fooled. Most of the people living in the US, whether native or immigrant, live what can be described as a lower middle class existence. Too many are deluded about the middle class and the suggestion there is no poor,” Barnes said.

“Jamaicans are no exception. There are hard times to be endured in the US, hence when people return on visits, they need to cease and desist from ‘popping style’ when their vacation and gifting are possible only because of the facility of ‘plastic’, credit cards,” he added, noting that “Jamaicans are fooled by this behaviour pattern only if they allow themselves. There is enough U.S. produced cable television fare to convince one and all that the show is just that.”

In recent times, the murders of returning residents has come under the glare of the Diaspora, with many Jamaicans living abroad expressing fear to return to their native land to resettle due to a threat against their lives. Despite police blotters indicating that murders and other major crimes are decreasing, the fear lingers and crime is seen as a major turn off to many in the Diaspora.

Barnes agrees.

“Crime and violence is the main fear of Jamaicans. There is anecdotal evidence shared by persons who personally experience crime and violence during visits to Jamaica. Corruption is till noticed but not as a deterrent, like violence has been for the last decade or more,” he said.

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