Republicanism in Jamaica

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Republicanism in Jamaica is a position which advocates that Jamaica's system of government be changed from a constitutional monarchy to a republic. Both major political parties – the Jamaica Labour Party and the People's National Party – subscribe to the position, and the current Prime Minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness, has announced that transitioning to a republic will be a priority of his government.

Background[edit]

In the lead-up to Jamaican independence in 1962, the Parliament of Jamaica established a cross-party joint select committee to prepare a new constitution. The committee received several submissions calling for Jamaica to become a republic, which it "heard politely, but rejected unceremoniously". The People's Freedom Movement, an extra-parliamentary opposition party, suggested that the constitution include a provision for a referendum on a republic at a later date, but this was not carried out.[1] Both major party leaders in Jamaica in the lead-up to independence (the JLP's Alexander Bustamante and the PNP's Norman Manley) were opposed to Jamaica becoming a republic. Law professor Stephen Vasciannie has suggested that the decision to retain the monarchy at independence was due to several factors, including a desire for continuity and stability, a desire to demonstrate the maturity required for independence, the popularity of the Royal Family amongst Jamaicans, and tendencies towards Anglophilia among the political elites.[2]

History[edit]

The first Jamaican prime minister to make steps towards a republic was Michael Manley, whose People's National Party (PNP) came to power at the 1972 general election. His government established a commission into constitutional reform in 1975, and in July 1977, following a march to commemorate the Morant Bay rebellion, Manley announced that Jamaica would become a republic by 1981. However, his government was defeated at the 1980 general election by the more conservative Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), led by Edward Seaga. Seaga was also a nominal republican, having expressed a preference for a "ceremonial presidency" in 1977. Despite this, no concrete moves towards a republic occurred during his premiership.[3]

In 2002, the PNP government led by P. J. Patterson abolished the requirement for public servants to take an oath of allegiance to the monarch. At a PNP party conference in September 2003, Patterson expressed his hopes that Jamaica would become a republic by 2007, stating that "the time has come when we must have a head of state chosen by us" and "the majority of people in Jamaica are ready to consign to history the last vestiges of colonialism".[4] However, his government's attempts to transition to a republic were stifled by its simultaneous attempts to abolish the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as the final court of appeal in Jamaica and replace it with Caribbean Court of Justice. The opposition JLP were against that decision (which would also have required a constitutional amendment), and made their support for republicanism conditional on a referendum being held for the judicial changes, which was not forthcoming.[3]

The PNP government was defeated at the 2007 general election. The new prime minister, JLP leader Bruce Golding, promised that his government would "amend the Constitution to replace the Queen with a Jamaican president who symbolises the unity of the nation", but the JLP's term in government came to an end at the 2011 general election without any formal steps towards a republic having been taken.[5] Portia Simpson-Miller, the PNP leader and new prime minister, also publicly affirmed her government's commitment to republicanism, stating a preference for an elected president.[6] However, the PNP lost power at the 2016 general election without bringing about constitutional change. Andrew Holness, Simpson-Miller's successor as prime minister, also affirmed a commitment to republicanism upon taking office, and stated his government would introduce a bill to replace the Queen with "a non-executive president as head of state".[7]

Legal process[edit]

All amendments to the Constitution of Jamaica must be approved by a two-thirds majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. However, certain sections of the constitution, including those pertaining to the monarchy, can only be amended if they are also submitted to a referendum.[1]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Derek O'Brien, "Jamaica’s drift towards republicanism: Possible consequences for the Caribbean", ConstitutionNet, 26 May 2016. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  2. ^ Stephen Vasciannie, "Reflections on the Republic of Jamaica", The Jamaica Observer, 29 November 2015. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  3. ^ a b Michael Burke, "Queen, emperor and republican status", The Jamaica Observer, 21 April 2016. Retrieved 2 September 2016.
  4. ^ "Jamaica eyes republican future", BBC News, 22 September 2003. Retrieved 2 September 2016.
  5. ^ "Editorial: The Monarchy And Beyond", The Jamaica Gleaner, 12 September 2015. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  6. ^ "Jamaica will become a republic, new prime minister vows", The Guardian, 6 January 2012. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  7. ^ Rob Crilly, "Jamaica unveils plan to ditch Queen as head of state", The Telegraph, 16 April 2016. Retrieved 3 September 2016.