Caribbean Question Time: Getting the Answers
The strengthening of the Caribbean Diaspora in the United Kingdom was evidenced by the approximately 400 persons who attended the Caribbean Question Time (CQT) forum, held in Central London, on December 3, 2013.
The oversubscribed event, hosted by the Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS) for the third time, had the largest attendance since its initial staging in 2010, with major participation by younger members of the Caribbean Diaspora.
Following the formal presentations, audience members had the opportunity to engage political representatives in the panel discussion about issues that were of major concern to them. The key concerns expressed at the forum included—immigration and education; the lack of Caribbean people in leadership positions at all levels; the erosion of the UK-Caribbean relationship and Air Passenger Duty.
The political representatives’ willingness to engage members of the Diaspora, which Senior Manager of Corporate Affairs and Public Policy at the JNBS UK Representative Office, Paulette Simpson, said “Is an indication that political representatives are seeing and valuing the importance of Caribbean votes.”
She further noted that the overwhelming reception received by the Caribbean Diaspora is also a clear indication of the growing interest of Caribbean migrants in political affairs in the United Kingdom.
“All the Members of Parliament turned up as they recognised the importance of engaging with the Caribbean Community as the Elections are 18 months away,” she quipped.
With requests for the event to be held next year, Simpson noted that one of the major reasons for the success of CQT is its unique offering to members of the Caribbean Diaspora.
“There is no other event that is organised at this level to facilitate the engagement of the community and political representatives. CQT successfully facilitates discussion on matters of common concern, bringing together representatives of UK political parties to explore with the Caribbean Diaspora a range of issues and how they might be addressed going forward,” Ms. Simpson pointed out.
JNBS General Manager, Earl Jarrett, who expressed great optimism for the JN hosted initiative, said that it was his hope for the CQT event to grow and gain political relevance. He also expressed interest in the idea of a UK-Caribbean summit that included the community, and emphasised the need for the community’s continued participation in such events.
“The aim of the 2014 event is to have a much larger event with senior members of each political party. Evidence of heightened community activism will be important in persuading the political parties that the Caribbean community can make a difference in an election,” said Ms Simpson.
Moderated by Paulette Simpson, the CQT 2013 panelists included: Members of Parliament, Mr. Mike Gapes; Mr Nick de Bois; the Right Hon. Simon Hughes; Dr Floyd Millen and Simon Woolley.