Broward County

Former Jamaica prime minister P.J. Patterson headlines town hall forum in Miramar

Former Jamaica Prime Minister P.J. Patterson and head of the People’s National Party. Patterson resigned from active politics in 2006.
Former Jamaica Prime Minister P.J. Patterson and head of the People’s National Party. Patterson resigned from active politics in 2006. AP

Since retiring from active politics nine years ago, Jamaica’s longest-serving prime minister has been making the rounds bestowing his views on Caribbean politics while promoting his vision of an integrated, borderless region.

Now P.J. Patterson, who served as prime minister from 1992 to 2006 before stepping down as his nation’s leader and head of the People’s National Party, is bringing his views to South Florida. Patterson will be the keynote speaker at a town hall at 5 p.m. Friday at the Miramar Cultural Center, 2400 Civic Center Pl.

The forum is sponsored by Western Union and Caribbean conglomerate GraceKennedy and is the third in a series. Similar forums were held this month in Canada and New York.

“P.J. is very well known in the Caribbean,” said Hazel Maragh, a Caribbean marketing consultant with GraceKennedy Remittance Service/Western Union.

“He has been prime minister of Jamaica [for 14 years], head of Caricom, and he has a wealth of information. He’s such a great draw. People really respect and love him, and they want to hear want he has to say about the Caribbean.”

The topic of Patterson’s talk is “The Caribbean Diaspora — Borderless Possibilities.”

This is the third year that both companies are sponsoring the town hall, which is aimed at informing Jamaicans about what is happening back home. Previous speakers were Jamaica National Security Minister Peter Bunting and University of the West Indies professor James Moss-Solomon.

“These forums are very important to us as they provide an excellent opportunity to engage the Caribbean diaspora — not just to network with our customers and get their feedback but also importantly, to encourage their participation in the discussion about issues that are critical to their home countries,” said Michelle Allen, chief executive officer of GraceKennedy Money Services. “Their contribution is very valuable as we explore ways to continue the development and promotion of the Caribbean while improving the quality of lives for those who live within the region.”

In addition to Patterson, attendees will also hear from GraceKennedy CEO Don Wehby and Sean Mason, vice president of Western Union Caribbean. They will be speaking about corporate social responsibility and investing in the next generation. Wehby also will discuss GraceKennedy’s Jamaican Birthright scholarship program, while Mason will announce Western Union’s new Pride of the Caribbean scholarship.

Maragh said she hopes that the forum helps Jamaicans and other Caribbean nationals get a better sense of what’s happening in the region, and how they can work together to improve conditions in their respective countries. She also hopes to get South Florida Jamaicans excited about attending the 6th biennial Jamaica Diaspora Conference, June 13-18, in Montego Bay.

“There are a lot of organizations in the diaspora that raise funds,” Maragh said. “They send this money back home, but they need to see a bigger picture.”

The forum is free, but to register, visit www.networkcaribbean.ca.

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