The Jamaican government will introduce a bill next month to sever the country’s ties with the British monarchy, possibly removing King Charles as the head of state by 2024, legal and constitutional minister Marlene Malahoo Forte told Sky News on Thursday.
“While the United Kingdom is celebrating the coronation of the King, that is for the United Kingdom,” Malahoo Forte told Sky. “Jamaica is looking to write a new constitution… which will sever ties with the monarch as our head of state.”
“My government is saying we have to do it now,” she continued, adding that for Jamaicans, it’s “time to say goodbye” to the British crown.
Malahoo Forte explained that her government will follow King Charles III’s coronation this weekend by introducing a bill next month aimed at making Jamaica a republic. Such a bill could take around nine months to pass, and would be followed by a referendum giving the Jamaican people the final say on breaking away from the UK.
Ahead of Charles’ coronation, a recent poll found that majorities in almost half of British Commonwealth countries – including Jamaica – would vote to become republics if given the opportunity.
A British colony since 1655, Jamaica was granted independence in 1962. Jamaican political leaders at the time rejected republicanism in favor of becoming a Commonwealth realm with Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. Successive Jamaican governments have promised to replace the monarch with a president, but all have either been defeated by pro-Commonwealth opponents or left office before fulfilling their promise.
Although most Jamaicans now favor republicanism, many “had warm affection and identified with Queen Elizabeth II,” Malahoo Forte told Sky. “But they do not identify with King Charles. He is as foreign as it gets to us. Plain and simple.” Others view the monarchy as a source of stability, with some elderly Kingston residents telling the British broadcaster that the Jamaican public aren’t “ready” to rule themselves.
Historically, British rule brought order to the island. Jamaica on the eve of its independence had a murder rate of 3.9 per 100,000, one of the lowest in the world. In 2022, the homicide rate stood at 43.8 per 100,000, the second-highest in the world.
Britain also transported around 600,000 African slaves to Jamaica, and British landowners profiteered from plantations on the island. Republicanism, Malahoo Forte said, “is about us saying goodbye to a form of government that is linked to a painful past of colonialism and the transatlantic slave trade.”
While Britain’s Prince William acknowledged last year that “slavery was abhorrent,” Malahoo Forte wants more from the monarchy. “Nothing short of a full apology, plus concrete steps to repair the wrong, will suffice,” she said, adding that reparations “are what the people of Jamaica want, and it is something that the government will do.”
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