Jamaica has toyed with the idea of becoming a republic for years; and it’s on track to do that by 2025. The British monarchy is holding on by a thread across the Commonwealth, and that thread is the Queen herself. When she dies, it may trigger a domino effect, prompting more nations to sever ties with Britain.
Essence reported that Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness wants to move the country away from being the constitutional monarchy. To aid in this goal, Jamaica introduced the Constitutional Reform Committee; tasked with thoroughly reviewing the 1962 constitution. If all goes according to plan, Jamaica will join Guyana, Trinidad, Dominica and Barbados, four other English- speaking nations formerly in the shadow of the British crown.
Because the British have shoved their noses in Jamaican affairs for so long, the separation can’t happen overnight. Last March, Prince William and his wife, Kate Middleton, went to Jamaica to launch what some called a charm offensive. According to Time, the objective “was to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee; celebrating 70 years on the throne.”
While some Jamaicans are staunch monarchists, others consider the monarchy outdated. It’s a bit of escapism, but Black and brown people in nations once conquered by the British see through the facade. The monarchy is an imperialist symbol with a bloody legacy no amount of sparkle can disguise.
Jamaicans from different walks of life signed a sternly worded letter addressed to Prince William and Kate. It referred to them as “direct beneficiaries of the wealth accumulated through the trafficking and enslavement of Africans.”
The letter also scoffed at the idea of celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s Jubilee, since “her leadership and that of her predecessors has perpetuated the greatest human rights tragedy in the history of mankind.”
Prince William denounced enslavement as “abhorrent” and said it never should have happened. But The Advocates Network, which hosted a protest in front of the British High Commission in Kingston, didn’t buy it. They demanded reparations and an authentic apology. The Prince simply stated what was already obvious to most, and not much else. His comment was slightly less cavalier than what former British Prime Minister David Cameron said in 2015. When asked about reparations, Cameron urged Jamaica to “move on” and focus on the future.
In March, The Guardian remarked, “the Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean question the purpose of the monarchy, which has offered them little support” in the pandemic era. In Jamaica, “the pandemic devastated the economy and left 120,000 children out of school. Unequal access to vaccines resulted in nearly 3,000 deaths in an island of 3 million people.”
The Queen’s station in Jamaica doesn’t have the kind of footing it once did, but that’s beside the point. Can Jamaica claim true freedom with a head of state on the other side of the world? Experts like Dr. Velma McClymont, a Jamaican academic, believes it’s not possible.
“My grandparents could trace generations back to slavery, but they died believing Jamaica was fully independent,” she said. “Imagine, 60 years later and it’s still an extension of the British empire. It’s an infant colony, not standing alone.”
The desire to make Jamaica a republic was reignited by what happened in Barbados last November. The island once called “Little England,” appointed Sandra Mason as head of state in place of the Queen. Trinidad became a republic back in 1976, and elected Ellis Clarke as its first president. There’s anti-monarchy sentiment in Belize, St. Vincent, Antigua and The Bahamas, which have all been visited by the royals recently. In fact, Prince William and Kate had to cancel a tour of the Akte‘il Ha cacao farm in Belize, because the locals emphatically objected.
It isn’t just residents of the Commonwealth nations who dislike the monarchy. Cooler attitudes towards the Windsors exist within Britain, especially among the youth. According to Reuters, “young people in Britain want an elected head of state, with their mood souring over the last couple of years.” The sour mood probably has two reasons: boredom with a dated institution and disdain for the way Meghan Markle and Prince Harry were slighted. Still, the monarchy will likely stay in place so long as the Queen lives.
As part of her swearing- in as president of Barbados, Sandra Mason poetically said, “Vessel Republic Barbados has set sail on her maiden voyage. May she weather all storms and land our country and citizens safely on the horizons and shores which are ahead of us.”
In good time, Vessel Republic Jamaica will follow.