For in excess of 40 years, Jamaica has been knocking around with the troubling issue of whether we should sever relations with the British Monarch as our head of state.
For years too, I have been a voice in the wilderness calling for us to do it before Queen Elizabeth died, for whereas I considered her quite harmless, the thought of having her son Charles as our head of state has always been, for me, very repulsive. Not least because I consider that the non-executive head of state should, at the very least, be a good role model and neither Charles nor his “Queen Consort” can fill that bill.
Well, the inevitable is on us and instead of running full speed ahead to get rid of them and appoint a local person as our head, the political nonsense which has always stymied our progress, is evident again.
The more things change the more they remain the same. In the initial stages, the sticking point between our alternating governments led by the People’s National Party (PNP) and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), has always been the kind of republic we should replace our monarchial system with. The PNP has always wanted an executive presidency and the JLP a ceremonial one.
I have no idea if that issue has been ironed out yet, but because little England (Barbados) took the step to get rid of the British monarchy in 2022, the ruling JLP, to tek shame outta dem eye, said they would follow suit and even appointed a minister of constitutional affairs to lead the process.
There is good reason why we should never cheer too early, for it appears now that those two idiotic institutions (JLP and PNP) are again going to stymie the country’s progress.
For the PNP has now refused to appoint members to the Constitutional Committee to discuss the extent of the constitutional reform to take place, as getting rid of the monarchy requires serious reform and a referendum.
This time, the distraction is that the PNP wants the country to adopt the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to replace the British Privy Council as our final court of appeal and will have no discussions unless this is agreed up front.
Omg! But shouldn’t the idea of a Constitutional Committee be that they negotiate these issues, not lay down hard lines?
I will be honest, when the CCJ was first established in 2005, I opposed it totally. For in my book, the interest of the Jamaican people was not properly represented by the Patterson regime (who led the PNP Government at the time) and it had all the appearances of being just another attempt to foist elements of a ‘federation’ though the back door.
Readers will recall that the PNP had supported the West Indies Federation, but in 1961 when a referendum was called to sanction our membership, the Jamaican people said no way.
In the initial stages, the CCJ was a lopsided agreement between Jamaica and the other former British colonies. My main grouse was that although Jamaica contributed almost US$29 million of the $100 million fund established to fund the court, not one member of the Jamaican judiciary was appointed to serve on the court!
On the other hand, Guyana. which contributed less than $9 million, had two judges, including the Chairman of that prestigious body.
That, to me, was a disgraceful insult to our judges, for by no measure could Guyanese judges be said to be twice as competent as Jamaicans.
That was my major turnoff, but over the years that situation has been rectified and the court has handed down some solid judgements and has proven itself just as good or better than the UK Privy Council in terms of its competence.
So now I have no argument against us getting rid of the Privy Council as our final court of appeal.
But if the CCJ must wait a while, so be it.
The refusal of the PNP to participate in the talks could mean we will be stuck in the monarchial rut again because our politicians seem incapable of sitting down together and ironing out simple issues.
In my book, however, if it comes to that, the JLP needs to realise that it is the Government and therefore has the responsibility to move full speed ahead with a referendum to get rid of the monarchy, with or without the PNP.
We really can’t allow political squabbles to cause this matter to drag on for another 40 or so years!
Joan Williams is a retired radio talk show host. She can be followed at; Joan, my views (joan-myviews.blogspot.com) or contacted at; [email protected].