Jamaica stuck with Queen for Independence
Minister of Legal and Constitutional Affairs Marlene Malahoo Forte says there is more outrage from citizens over police killings. (Photo: Anthony Lewis)
Malahoo-Forte says island will not become a republic by 60th celebrations

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Jamaica will not transition from a constitutional monarchy to republican status in time for the country's 60

th

 anniversary of independence in August.

This was announced Wednesday by the Minister of Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Marlene Malahoo-Forte, during the post-Cabinet media briefing at Jamaica House.

The minister explained that in order to remove deeply entrenched provisions from the constitution, specific steps must be followed, including notice periods that must be observed and a referendum that must take place.

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“The constitution sets out its own process for amendment and we cannot deviate from it. The commitment of the prime minister to transition Jamaica away from a constitutional monarchy is one that will be kept but I know persons are wondering whether we will have it done in time for the celebration of Jamaica 60. Unfortunately, the procedure set out in the constitution will not permit that timing to be met,” Malahoo-Forte told journalists.

The minister, who previously served as Attorney General, explained that deeply entrenched provisions of the constitution require a two-thirds vote of the members of both houses of Parliament as well as a referendum.

“Additionally, before a bill seeking to amend an entrenched provision even comes up for debate, there is the requirement of a three-month period between the date when the bill is tabled in the House and the commencement of debate,” she outlined.

With independence being exactly four months away on August 6, Malahoo-Forte noted that “Even if the bill were to be tabled, you would have May, June, July before any debate could commence because that is what the constitution says. After the debate is concluded, you also need another three months before the bill can be passed in the House.

“If you take away nothing else, it's to understand that we have to go through a constitutional process to achieve the goal of moving Jamaica from a constitutional monarchy to a republic and in Jamaica we have constitutional primacy; whatever we do must be in accordance with the constitution,” she said.

The minister has promised to say more when she makes her contribution to the Sectoral Debate in May.

She also said that while persons are seeking to compare Jamaica with Barbados which ditched the Queen as its head of state last November for republic status, the constitutional provisions of the two countries are different.

“Unlike Jamaica they did not require a vote from the people [referendum] to make that important change in their constitution,” she noted.

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