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Diaspora leaders: Jamaica, US must seek diplomatic fix for same-sex dilemma

NEW YORK:

Jamaican community leaders in the diaspora are calling for the governments of United States and Jamaican to diplomatically fix any issue that may have arisen between both countries over the granting of diplomatic immunity to the same-sex partner of a new diplomat being assigned to the island.

Irwine Clarke, head of the Queens-based Caribbean Immigration Services and Team Jamaica Bickle, said that, given the longstanding relationships between the two countries, any disagreement should be fixed by both parties sitting around a table and discussing the issue.

“They should be able to resolve this issue, regardless of moral or personal positions and it should not be a tit-for-tat situation,” said Clare.

He described the reports of the disagreement between both countries as unfortunate.

“We live in a changing world and norms that are accepted in one country may not be acceptable in another, but the relationship built up over many years should not be harmed. It is readily fixable and we have the necessary skilled people to do so,” said Clare.

Social media has been abuzz over the past two days after news broke that Jamaica had decided not to grant diplomatic immunity to the same-sex partner of a new diplomat being posted by the US to Jamaica.

The reports further stated that, given Jamaica’s stance, the US State Department had advised that diplomatic visas for some high-ranking Jamaican diplomats currently serving in the US would not be renewed at the end of the current five-year term.

However, the State Department, in a post on social media, said that, as of August 2021, diplomats from all worldwide bilateral missions to the US are accredited for a maximum of five years.

“At the conclusion of the five-year period, in the absence of a waiver approved by the [State] Department the diplomats are expected to end their tour with the bilateral mission and depart the United States. Ambassadors, charges d’affaires and deputy chief of mission are exempt from the five-year accreditation policy. The United States and Jamaica continue to enjoy close ties based on shared values, culture, tourism and a vibrant diaspora community in the United States,” the State Department said in its social media post.

Dr Allan Cunningham, former Diaspora Council member for the USA Southern region and head of the People Profile Organization, told The Gleaner that each country has its own rules and other countries should abide by those rules.

He said the current problem is easily fixed by both parties coming together to discuss the issue and finding an acceptable solution.

“Meet at the table. Discuss how best to resolve the issue because, at the end of the day, it is in the best interest of both countries and will allow for the continued relationship between both countries forged over the many years,” he said.

Cunningham said the positions of both countries should be respected, although “we now live in a changing world”.

He said: “We don’t want to hurt the relationship between both countries, but the rules of each country should be respected.”

Patrick Beckford, former Diaspora Board member, told The Gleaner that the situation needs to be fixed and the best way to do so is to recognise that the US is bound by its laws.

“The US Supreme Court has made same sex the law of the land, so the United States has to abide by this and cannot discriminate on how it places people in positions,” said Beckford.

On the other hand, he noted that Jamaica also has its own laws that it must observe and the best way to resolve the situation is for both countries to sit around the table and discuss it and come up with a solution.

“This should not be something that is discussed in the public sphere,” he said.

Meanwhile, top Jamaican officials in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade have refused to comment on the situation.

Jamaican-American Congresswoman Yvette Clarke has also taken a pass on commenting on the issue.