KINGSTON, Jamaica — Jamaica will transition to a republic in time for the next general election which is constitutionally due in 2025. The Minister of Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Marlene Malahoo Forte, provided the update on Tuesday during her contribution to the 2022/23 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives.
She had earlier this year dampened expectations and hopes that the Queen would have been removed as Jamaica’s Head of State in 2022 as the country marks 60 years of independence from Britain, explaining that the process was long and detailed.
However, on Tuesday, Malahoo Forte said a Constitutional Reform Committee (CRC) is now being constituted and will include members of the Opposition.
“There are many steps to be taken between now and the tabling of a new constitution. I will advise when the committee is fully constituted,” she said, adding that "it is my intention, in leading the process, to work assiduously before the Parliament, unless of course something more pressing happens to overtake for the start of the next session,” she said.
The minister added that the aim is to get the work done in time for the next session “so that the steps can be taken in time for the next general election”.
She explained that a session is defined to mean, in relation to a House, "the sitting of that House when it first meets after the prorogation of Parliament". She pointed out that there are certain rules around what is done within a session of Parliament and what goes on between sessions.
Malahoo Forte disclosed that she has already written to the Leader of the Opposition with a request for him to name two Opposition members to the reform committee.
“I have set out the work to be done by the committee in very broad terms, specifying, inter alia, that it will involve at this stage the conduct of a thorough and comprehensive review of the 1962 Constitution, including the 2011 Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedom, as well as recommendations for reform made through the various constitutional reform commissions and committees in the past, to ultimately implement an ambitious reform agenda, settled by consensus,” the minister said.
She explained that “A Bill for an Act of Parliament to remove Her Majesty, by altering section 34 of the Constitution of Jamaica, which establishes the Parliament of Jamaica consisting of Her Majesty, a Senate and a House of Representatives, shall not be deemed to be passed unless at the final vote thereon it is supported by the votes of not less than two-thirds of all members in either House”.
Malahoo Forte noted that the Jamaica Labour Party Government can secure the required two-thirds majority vote of 41 of the 63 votes in the House of Representative during the currency of the present Parliament but must get one of eight Opposition senators to vote with the government to facilitate the change.
The matter must also be put to Jamaicans by way of a referendum.