MONTEGO BAY, St James — Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte says an announcement is expected by the end of the second quarter next year in relation to Jamaica's way forward to becoming a republic.
“A document is currently being prepared for the prime minister and I do believe that, in due course, perhaps early in the new year [an announcement will be made],”said the attorney general.”When we go into January the time is going to be taken up with the budget process to come and then, by the time the budget debate and the sectoral debate are over, something concrete will be announced by then,” she said.
Last week Monday at midnight, Jamaica's fellow Caribbean island Barbados became the world's newest republic by removing Britain's Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. Besides, the country also inaugurated a president during a ceremony that coincided with its 55th year of Independence.
While former Jamaican prime ministers have given a commitment to start the process for the past four decades, nothing substantial has happened. However, following Barbados's move, calls became louder by Jamaicans, including former Prime Minister PJ Patterson, who wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Opposition Leader Mark Golding, beseeching them to ensure that Jamaica is a republic by the time the country observes 60 years of Independence in 2022.
Malahoo Forte told the Jamaica Observer, following a graduation for 300 students of the Montego Bay Community College in St James on Sunday, that Holness has already given instructions for the constitution to be amended.
“He has given instructions to myself as attorney general and Minister of Justice [Delroy Chuck] to immediately commence the work of advising on the work of reforming the constitution,” stated Malahoo Forte, adding “the work had actually commenced before, and it is going to be done. It is going to be an involved process, but I am happy that it will begin in earnest”.
The last major review of the constitution took place in 2010. At that time, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was amended.
Unlike other countries, Jamaica's Constitution is set up in a way that makes it challenging to undertake such a critical move easily. Among the hurdles is the need for a referendum to remove the monarchy.
At the same time, the attorney general said an assessment is being done to determine if the constitution will require other amendments in the processes.
“What is required at this stage is really a wholesale look at who we are as Jamaicans and what it is that we stand for even as we look at the form of Government that we have and who is our head of State. And, there are involved questions and, you know, the matter will ultimately have to go to a referendum involving all of the people. So, I can say that everyone can stand by as timely information will come on how we will embark on the process and the issues that we will be addressing,” stated Malahoo Forte.
While Patterson had suggested that this be done for the 60th independence anniversary in August, such a process could take more than a year to be realised.
When asked if this could be done before the anniversary, Malahoo Forte replied, “I can't speak to Mr Patterson's letter. I think that he wrote to the prime minister and it has not come to my attention yet.”
Barbados is the Caribbean Community's fourth republic following Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Dominica.