Changing symbols must be timely and practicalSaturday, August 13, 2016
When Jamaica became politically independent, the Government decided to create some symbols to signal to the Jamaican people, and indeed to the entire world, that we were no longer a colony of Britain.
We wrote and composed our own National Anthem; selected new symbols, such as the national flower; stopped certain behavioural practices, such as declaring ‘God Save the Queen’; and we have gradually changed the names of some streets and places.
A conservative approach was taken to changing some colonial symbols and institutions. This is in contrast to what some countries did at their Independence, for instance, Trinidad and Tobago, which became a republic; and some African countries which changed their colonial names.
While we have retained some very important symbols and institutions of colonialism, there is, indeed, justification to make more changes, even as we acknowledge that it will take some time to do so.
Probably that which is most overdue is replacing The Queen as our head of state. There are strong positions on both sides of this argument, but it is something that our two major political parties have been talking about for a long time, and it appears that there is common acceptance that it is time to make that change.
In recent weeks, a call to change the Coat of Arms has triggered debate, which is healthy, because the fact that it has been like that for so many years does not mean that it should not be reviewed and changed if necessary.
In 2013, the opening of the Easter Term of the Home Circuit Court was marked by the fact that judges started wearing new robes, without wigs.
Our report at the time noted that the full black robe — with vertical stripes in the national colours of black, green, and gold running down the front — appears to be made of lighter material, which is more suitable for our tropical climate.
We recall that the change was hailed by some lawyers who highlighted the nationalistic quality of the new robe. Some were of the view that the justices should have long thrown off the old garb that are vestiges of the colonial era.
Within this debate is a strong view to replace the Judicial Committee of the United Kingdom Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). Originally this newspaper supported that position, but over time we have had reason to rethink.
The CCJ, we hold, will exist for the foreseeable future under the shadow of Jamaican and regional politicians who are irrevocably in love with their own sense of power to intervene, adversely, we might add, in the running of local and regional institutions.
Add to that the fact that the Jamaican justice system is clogged by a heavy backlog of untried and uncompleted cases, and you will reluctantly come to the conclusion that some cases will never be tried and we might as well write them off like bad debt. If there is danger in delay, there is no more danger than in the courts.
This is something that we need to fix before fully joining the CCJ.
Noble ideals are good, but they must be timely and practical.