PRIME Minister Bruce Golding says he wants Jamaica to mark its 50th year of Independence free of its colonial ties to the British monarchy and has proposed that the team assigned to resolve the contentious issue of our final court of appeal examine the method by which a head of state will be appointed under republican status.
"Transforming Jamaica from a monarchical to a republican state means no disrespect, and must not be interpreted this way," Golding said in his contribution to the 2011/12 Budget Debate in Parliament yesterday.
"I have long believed that if I am to have a queen, it must be a Jamaican queen. I would not wish to see us celebrate 50 years of Independence without completing that part of our 'sovereignisation', for want of a better word," he added.
Jamaica will mark 50 years of political Independence from British rule in August 2012 but has retained the English monarchy as head of state, which is represented by a governor general.
The country has also retained the Judicial Committee of the United Kingdom Privy Council as its final court of appeal, an arrangement that has been coming under increased pressure, both locally and from England itself in recent years.
Several former British colonies in the Caribbean have removed the UK-based Privy Council as their court of last resort for criminal and civil matters and have substituted it with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
The CCJ also has original jurisdiction in interpreting the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, under which regional countries are to transform their trade and functional co-operation bloc into a seamless economic space -- the Caribbean Single Market and Economy.
But there is still a dispute between the Jamaican Government and the Opposition over whether Jamaica should accept the CCJ in its criminal jurisdiction.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Golding pointed to that disagreement, as well as other differences between the Government and the Opposition over a number of issues relating to constitutional reform.
"For more than 30 years we have been deliberating on these changes to our Constitution that are designed to affirm the sovereignty of our people, consolidate our independence, strengthen the rights of our citizens and provide constitutional safeguards for good governance," Golding said.
"Next year we will celebrate our 50th year of Independence. It would be a misfortune if we were to do so with this important unfinished business still in limbo," he added.
Reiterating that a number of the constitutional changes will require approval by way of a referendum, Golding said it would give added meaning and significance to the 50th anniversary of Independence celebrations if we were to hold that referendum prior to August next year and have the new constitutional framework as part of that celebration.
"I propose therefore that the team we have assigned to resolve the issue of our final appellate court also consider the issue of the method of appointment of the head of state," Golding said.
"We had already agreed that this appointment would be by way of a two-thirds majority of both Houses of Parliament. The disagreement arises from our position that it should be a two-thirds majority of each House while the Opposition insists that it should be a two-thirds majority of both Houses voting in joint session. We must be able to find a way to resolve that difference as well as the matter of our final appellate court so that next year we can celebrate more than just 50 years since 1962," he said.