Will Jamaica follow the course set by Barbados?Wednesday, December 01, 2021
Even those who may disagree will, no doubt, admire the determination and unified approach that has led to Barbados' severing of centuries-old ties to the British Monarchy.
Barbados — once laughingly referred to as Little England because of perceived loyalty to the colonial master — is now the fourth former British colony in this region to formally drop the British monarch as its head of State and embrace republican status.
Dame Sandra Mason, governor general under the previous dispensation — representing Britain's Queen Elizabeth II — is now Barbados's non-executive president and head of State.
Of note is Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley's encouragement to her people to contextualise the move away from the British Monarchy as a “…definition of self, of State, and the Barbados brand in a more complex, fractured and turbulent world”.
Prince Charles, heir apparent to the British throne, congratulated Barbadians for achieving “… a point on a continuum, a milestone on the long road that you have not only travelled, but which you have built”.
Intriguingly, as part of its celebrations which coincides with the 55th anniversary of political independence from Britain, Barbados conferred its internationally acclaimed singer, Ms Robyn Rihanna Fenty, with the Order of National Hero. That's a move that is already reigniting long-standing suggestions here about recognising the priceless contribution of cultural icons by adding one or more to the list of Jamaica's national heroes.
Primarily, though, we suspect that Jamaicans, for now at least, will be more focused on constitutional reform and proposals to also cut ties with the British Monarchy.
As far back as the Black Power era in the 1960s, there were those who questioned the appropriateness of The Queen as Jamaica's Head of State.
In the 1970s, then Prime Minister Michael Manley led a campaign for a break with the monarchy. Debate at that time was coloured and distorted by the bitter ideological divide separating the then ruling People's National Party (PNP), which advocated Democratic Socialism as the way forward, and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), which opposed.
While Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and more recently Dominica embraced republican status, we think it is fair to say that, for the most part, constitutional reform in Jamaica has been pushed to the back burner.
To be fair, in the 1990s under the leadership of Mr P J Patterson's PNP, recommendations by a joint select committee of Parliament focused on constitutional reform eventually led to constitutional amendments, the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, passed by the Jamaican Parliament just over a decade ago.
We are unclear as to whether Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness's comment on Sunday at the JLP's national conference that his Government was intent on a review of the constitution, come next year, was in any way affected by events in Barbados.
What he was reported as saying is that the novel coronavirus pandemic has exposed gaps in the law and these must be rectified.
Inevitably, though, issues such as monarchical ties to Britain and the retention of the British Privy Council as Jamaica's highest court will arise.