WASHINGTON, D.C. – The highly anticipated visit of United States President Barack Obama’s to Jamaica in the coming days, is creating marked interest among Jamaicans within the US Diaspora.
Mr. Obama will make a two-day official visit to Jamaica on April 8 -9, while on his way to the Summit of the Americas in Panama.
Former Jamaican Ambassador to the United States and Counselor for Jamaica at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Dr. Richard Bernal, in reacting to the President’s visit said, “The visit of President Obama is a very positive development for Jamaica.”
The IDB executive pointed out that “the visit is a critically important opportunity to convey to the president and his foreign policy advisors, the issues of concern to Jamaica and to reiterate the government’s commitment to continue to implement a very challenging economic programme”.
Dr. Bernal, Jamaica’s longest serving ambassador to Washington explined that when a president visits a country or region the engagement is preceded by an intense inter-agency process which focuses on every aspect of the relationship with the US. This augers well for the president’s meeting with CARICOM leaders on economic, security and energy.
Former Diaspora Board Advisory member for the North-East USA, Patrick Beckford said that he was not very surprised that the President would be visiting Jamaica. He said, having visited the White House during Mr. Obama’s first term, he was pleasantly surprised at the number of Jamaicans who had important roles in the administration.
Mr. Beckford said he hoped that on the agenda for discussion would be the issue of trade imbalance between the USA and the Caribbean as well as the expansion of the “Guest Worker Program”m. He said he hoped Prime Minister Simpson-Miller, as promised, would forcefully press the issue of having Marcus Garvey’s criminal record expunged within a specific time line. In addition it was his wish that President Obama’s visit would have the added economic benefit to Jamaica by way of a reduction in the high rate of interest on Jamaica’s loans or some form of debt forgiveness.
Secretary General for the Friends of Trelawny (FOTA), Michael A. Wattkis, urged the Prime Minister to make sure that Mr. Obama’s visit is more than symbolic, and that a concerted effort is made to foster greater social and economic opportunities between both countries.
“Thousands of Jamaican-American families live and work in the US,” said Wattkis, an English professor in New Jersey. “We love our adopted homeland. We love and support President Obama and I am sure our nation will show him that same love, a love that will extend into a lasting, mutually beneficial relationship.”
Chairman of Team Jamaica Bickle, Irwin Claire, in reacting to the news of the visit said that as a Jamaican living in the USA, he was elated and proud that President Obama would be visiting his homeland. He said this demonstrated the recognition and mark of respect for Jamaica and the formidable role Jamaica plays on the world scene.
President of the National Association of Jamaican and Supportive Organizations (NAJASO), Rick Nugent, said that it was his hope, that the President’s visit to Jamaica and his meetings with Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller would open doors for greater dialogue and understanding in addressing many of the countries issues and concerns.
“Jamaica presently has a major trade deficit with the US, so we are hoping that the parties can take steps to improve Jamaica’s trade deficit and accomplish a more favorable balance of trade. On the issue of immigration and deportations, he expressed hoped that discussions would lead to the development of a favorable policy.
Last week, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller announced to the Parliament that US President Barak Obama would pay a state visit to Jamaica. While in the country he will hold bi-lateral discussions on a range of issues of mutual interest. During the visit the US President will meet with heads of government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to discuss issues on CARICOM US agenda which will also include energy, security and trade.
President Obama and CARICOM heads of government will proceed from the high-level encounter in Jamaica to Panama for the Sixth Summit of the Americas.