What will a Jamaican referendum yield?
A referendum is needed to make Jamaica a republic. (CMC Photo)

Dear Editor,

Here in Jamaica, both legislation from Parliament and a referendum is required to transition from a constitutional monarchy to a republic.

The United Kingdom also has a similar requirement if it ever did decide to get rid of the monarchy. It would be a constitutional matter requiring legislation from Parliament. Even before that, it would need to be endorsed by the British public through a referendum, which would have to be called for by the Government.

On continental Europe, referendums have led to the abolition of the monarchy in Italy and Greece as well as reaffirmed support for the institution in Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway, and Spain.

Here in the Caribbean, a constitutional referendum was held in St Vincent and the Grenadines on November 25, 2009. Voters were asked whether they approved of a new constitution to replace the constitution in force since independence in 1979. The proposal gained support by only 43.13 per cent of voters, well short of the required two-thirds threshold. If approved, the proposed constitution would have abolished the monarchy and given more power to the Opposition.

Dr Derek O'Brien, in reference to Jamaica's drift toward republicanism and possible consequences for the Caribbean, posits that, "St Vincentians rejected the Bill because they did not approve of the other reforms that were being proposed…"

The constitution is known as a living document because it can be amended, even if it might seem dead due to our lack of knowledge of its content or non-engagement with it. Conventional wisdom would have been to place before the people of Jamaica at the next local government elections the question of becoming a republic with a ceremonial president rather than overburdening this fundamental quest with other constitutional changes that might lead to its rejection.

Historically, each Jamaican political party has wanted to be the one to lead the island into republic status, but they are afflicted with the blindness of unbridled selfishness as demonstrated by the current Andrew Holness-led Administration through its Ministry of Legal and Constitutional Affairs embarking upon a mammoth project of constitutional reform.

With a Government determined, both explicitly and subtly, to militarise the Jamaican society, having a history of flouting the constitution and an alleged agenda to abrogate the rights of its citizens, we are all called to be vigilant lest we become victims of new political oppressive structures.

Is Jamaica on a similar path as its Caribbean neighbour St Vincent and the Grenadines with the proposed 2025 referendum?

Dudley C McLean II

Mandeville, Manchester


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