Jamaica’s Prime Minister Strives To Transform The Country Into A Republic
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The same week the United States commemorated the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jamaica’s prime minister, Andrew Holness, instructed his nation’s government to “move ahead with speed” in abolishing the country’s constitutional monarchy–the final move in erasing the island nation’s formal connection to Britain, along with the colonialism and racialized past that comes with it.
“It is time that Jamaica becomes a republic,” said Holness, 50. “For us, the process is not simple, and we have known this since we started on this journey. And we are making sure that we check every box as we move deliberately in that regard.”
Though Jamaica became independent of the United Kingdom in 1962, the British monarchy remained as the head of state. The Jamaica Observer conducted a poll in 2020 that found 55 percent of Jamaicans wanted to abolish the monarchy while 30 percent supported the status quo.
Jamaican newspaper The Gleaner said that Holness made his remarks during a reception after reports surfaced about the stalling of plans to make Jamaica a republic. The delay stemmed from the question of who would serve on the Constitutional Reform Committee–a body created to oversee the transition from constitutional monarchy to republic.
With the passing of Queen Elizabeth in late 2022, Jamaica’s haste to become a republic comes at a time when Buckingham Palace is attempting to find footing under a new monarch while battling multiple allegations of racism.
And with Barbados removing the British monarchy as its head of state a couple of years ago, Jamaica will likely become the second Caribbean nation to claim its complete independence from its colonial power when it finalizes its new structure as a republic.
The nation of Belize also signaled its interest in abolishing the monarchy and becoming a republic.
In June 2022, the Jamaican government revealed its intent to become a republic by 2025. In March of that same year, Holness informed Prince William and Princess Kate of that pending decision during their Caribbean tour that the Queen sanctioned.
During that same visit, the young royals were met with protests, along with demands for reparations for Britain’s role in the transatlantic slave trade and compensation for the colonial profits made from Jamaica’s natural resources.
With no formal apology from the monarchy or the British government for the atrocities committed against enslaved people on the island of Jamaica, as well as the Caribbean at large, and the long-term abuses of members of the Windrush Generation, many have seen the move to make Jamaica a republic as part of the natural order.
“Jamaica is, as you would see, a country that is very proud of our history and very proud of what we have achieved,” Holness said in a speech. “And we intend to attain, in short order, our development goals and fulfill our true ambitions and destiny as an independent, developed, prosperous country.”
On the diplomatic front, Jamaica’s push to end its relationship with Buckingham Palace is partially rooted in a 2003 immigration decision. Under British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Jamaicans saw their visa-free access to the United Kingdom permanently suspended, creating a travel barrier between the Jamaican population, their head of state, and the British diaspora.
Today, Jamaican nationals are the only citizens within the Commonwealth who require a visa to visit the land where their Head of State is headquartered.
In 2015, a foreign policy blunder by British Prime Minister David Cameron further strained Jamaica’s relationship with its current head of state. Known as the Windrush Scandal, the British government wrongly deported hundreds of British Jamaicans. Instead of paying reparations for enslavement, Cameron offered to sponsor the construction of a new Jamaican prison.
These foreign policy missteps and the recent revelation of royal racism raised by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have made Jamaica’s move to republic both telling, timely, and seeped in a history that seems rich in racism, discrimination, and an unleveled playing field.
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