In addition to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the four constituent nations of the United Kingdom (UK), the British monarch is head of State of the following 14 independent countries or Commonwealth realms: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, The Bahamas, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu.
Of those 14, Jamaica happens to be the only one, and in fact the only country in the entire world, the nationals of which need a visa to enter or transit the country which houses their monarch and head of State, and is the seat of their court of last resort. And the shame of that inexplicable situation is evidently sadly lost on, and certainly ignored by, the Jamaican authorities.
This grave anomaly, for which no justification has ever been proffered, and to which the Jamaican Government has acquiesced, is an affront to Jamaica's constitutional construct. It serves to restrict the Jamaican citizens' right of access to their monarch and head of State, and it constrains their constitutional right of access to justice by appealing to him by way of his advisory body, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, as Jamaica's court of final appeal.
His Majesty's representative in Jamaica, the governor general, Sir Patrick Allen; His Majesty's trusty and well-beloved privy counsellor, the prime minister, Andrew Holness; and His Majesty's loyal leader of the Opposition, Mark Golding, despite their pledge of allegiance and obeisance to their sovereign, are required to hold a valid visa to enter or transit where he is domiciled.
Would it not be quite in order for them to demand of The King and of his Government in London that the right and privilege of citizens of the Commonwealth realm of Jamaica to travel throughout His Majesty's principal realm, without let or hindrance and without the need to obtain a visa, be fully and immediately restored?
Of course, the objection would likely be raised that, in the British and Jamaican constitutional monarchy, The King is impotent and has no power to intervene in government policy, even though he is not without influence. Realistically, not much joy can be hoped for from the British Government which for the last seven decades has increasingly tightened its immigration policy to target and deliberately exclude Jamaicans whose progenitors suffered under the yoke of British slavery, toiled under British colonialism, fought and died defending the British empire and laboured to build the United Kingdom.
However, the real problem and its solution lies not with potentia regis — the power of the king — or with discriminatory immigration policy, but in the political will of the people's representatives in the Jamaican executive and parliament to remove the monarch's advisory body as our court of last resort, and the monarch as head of state.
The ball is nowhere else other than in our court. In other words, while we have no power to influence the requirement to obtain a visa to enter the UK, the UK does not have to be the place where our final court and our head of state are located. Something must be done about that scandalous, shameful and demeaning position, and it should be done with utmost urgency.
We, the Jamaican citizens, are duty bound to demand that our Government tell us why there is no urgency in entering upon that reference and why they wish the intolerable situation regarding lack of access to our final court of justice to remain in a place far removed when it can simply and quickly be changed by means of a mere vote in the Parliament.
The Government's nonchalance is even more stunning and problematic than the unique and awkward requirement of the visa.
Ambassador Emeritus Audley Rodriques, among other duties, served as head of Jamaica's diplomatic missions in Venezuela, Kuwait, and South Africa.