Jamaica's republic status on the horizon
Prime Minister Andrew Holness (foreground) poses with newly named members of the high-level Constitutional Reform Committee. Holness announced the members during a press conference at Jamaica House on Wednesday.(Photo: Joseph Wellington)

Prime Minister Andrew Holness on Wednesday formally announced members of the high-level Constitutional Reform Committee (CRC) tasked with providing expert guidance and oversight for Jamaica's smooth transition from a constitutional monarchy to a republic.

Holness, during a press conference at Jamaica House, named the committee members, which will be chaired by Minister of Legal and Constitutional Affairs Marlene Malahoo Forte and co-chaired by Ambassador Rocky Meade.

The CRC, which has representation from a diverse cross section of society, is required to help guide the constitutional reform process culminating in the crafting of a modern and new constitution.

Indicating that "ambitious timelines" had been set for achieving the objectives of the committee, the prime minister expressed confidence that these timelines will be met "and that we will make one step further in redefining who we are as a country and as a sovereign people".

He said the job of the committee members is significant and complicated, and will involve reviewing the work that has already been taking place; pulling from that body of work what is relevant to today's circumstances; and giving advice and guidance to the overall process.

"There may be the view that it is a straightforward and simple task of just changing the name of the country from that of a constitutional monarchy to a republic — that is not the case. There are many legal steps that we have to go through and there is the matter of a referendum, the outcome of which no one can predict...Nevertheless, the Government is moving ahead with it and we feel that we have the institutional and human capacity to address those risks sufficiently to get to the outcome which we all want — Jamaica as a republic," Holness said.

Meade, when quizzed by media representatives as to the timeline for Jamaica's transition to a republic, said it was not a simple matter to give a specific time frame especially when the referendum is taken into consideration.

"When we take the matter to referendum, we can't predict the outcome, so we are setting an ambitious timeline for the work that will get us to the point of putting the matter to the people and when the people decide, we will know exactly what the actual timeline for transition is. But we are certainly hoping to get some initial decisions taken in terms of crafting matters within the next couple of months and the process will follow thereafter," he said.

In the meantime, Malahoo Forte said the committee met for the first time on Wednesday morning, noting that "it was a fruitful meeting…we all emerged from the session all thinking that we are off to an encouraging start".

Committee members also include: attorney general, Dr Derrick McKoy; president of the Senate and commissioner of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica, Tom Tavares-Finson; government senator, Ransford Braham; Opposition senator, Donna Scott Mottley; Member of Parliament, St Andrew Western, Anthony Hylton; international constitutional law expert, Professor Richard Albert; national constitutional expert, Dr Lloyd Barnett; consultant counsel and nominee of the leader of the Opposition, Hugh Small; representative of the wider faith-based society, Dr David Henry; representative of civil society, Dr Nadeen Spence; chair of the National Committee on Reparations, Lalieta Davis Mattis; youth advisor, Sujae Boswell; and the committee's liaison officer, Christopher Harper.

Malahoo Forte said the next committee meeting will be on Wednesday, March 29 at Jamaica House.

BY ALECIA SMITH Senior staff reporter smitha@jamaicaobserver.com

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