Out of sight, out of mind? Diaspora gets the message

Jamaicans have been encouraged to consume local products through campaigns such as ‘grow what we eat, eat what we grow’. But, this turning away from things from abroad in food, which is not fully supported, has another twist. It’s seems that we also are seeing a push against people who are not local.

We are looking for a new police commissioner. However, it’s been disturbing to see that rather than seek the best, unequivocally, political interference has entered to limit the choices to local candidates.

In many places that would not seem out of place, because non local and foreign are almost synonymous. But, for many countries like Jamaica, which have seen and been saved by emigration, this has a bitter twist. Undoubtedly, many of our very capable people have migrated, and made good careers abroad. Why should we put a blanket bar on any of them who wish to return? If they are rejected wholesale for some high profile posts, what message is sent to the rejected and others?

This week, we get to ponder the question. A person born and educated through high school in Jamaica, who migrated then rose through the ranks as an agent of the US FBI, had his application for the commissioner post rejected. This has many layers, including simple protocol such as how much detail is given to rejected candidates. He feels ‘baffled’ and that he was ‘dissed’. Whatever the merits of Wilfred Rattigan, he ‘did not fit’. He comes with some yellow flags based on his past record in  the USA, but we have not been informed why his application was rejected. Instead, we get to hear that six candidates, all from within the JCF, have been shortlisted.

Public reactions have varied from supportive to dismissive. As it affects the police, some people also have concerns about whether this is another way of limiting real change in a force known to have a problem with corruption.

A deep tension exists between Jamaicans living in Jamaica and Jamaicans or those of Jamaican origin living abroad. Attempts by the so-called diaspora to influence or be involved in Jamaican national activities can be seen from many perspectives. Right now, they have to live with rejection.

Only the uninformed would reject the impact of the diaspora on Jamaicans’ livelihoods. But, the love of barrels does not equate to neutral attitudes when it comes to competing for jobs.

We know that Jamaicans often show plenty of love for overseas candidates who are not Jamaican, and whatever the merits of such amour, it will always make the rejection of a person with Jamaican roots seem odd. In the case of the police force, we’ve raided Scotland Yard in the past. 

The diaspora’s major influence seems to be its financial clout, but do experiences such as that over the police commissioner mean that they will start considering ways to avoid more diasporic dissonance.

Author: Dennis G Jones (aka 'The Grasshopper')

Retired International Monetary Fund economist. My blog is for organizing my ideas and thoughts about a range of topics. I was born in Jamaica, but spent 30 years being educated, living, and working in the UK. I lived in the USA for two decades, and worked and travelled abroad, extensively, throughout my careers and for pleasure. My views have a wide international perspective. Father of 3 girls. Also, married to an economist. :)

2 thoughts on “Out of sight, out of mind? Diaspora gets the message”

  1. This is rather worrying, I agree – a “blanket” decision to exclude expat Jamaicans seems grossly unfair. I am sure some have much to contribute. However, nothing could be more sensitive as national security, and I would hope that rigorous background checks were done. I don’t want to comment on this particular candidate but don’t think he should have been left off the shortlist just because he was living overseas. There may have been other reasons.

    As you say, anyone chosen from that list would have come up through the same corrupt JCF and therefore may not enjoy public trust. Frankly, though – I am not sure that Jamaicans in the diaspora have any right to “dictate” to those at home.


    1. This case has lots of peculiarities because of the job and national security. Someone mentioned that the FBI agent must have become a US citizen and could have mixed allegiance, as far as possibly reporting to the US government.

      Lots of Jamaicans seek better experience abroad. Where does the line get drawn when someone decides they want to come back and contribute?

      Diaspora organizations have jumped on the issue as if it were ‘their’ candidate, and have complicated things with their lobbying.


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