“God Save The Queen” : Jamaica and The Monarchy
“God save our gracious Queen, Long live our noble Queen,
God save the Queen: Send her victorious, Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us: God save the Queen.” – Verse One of “God Save The Queen” – Jamaica’s Royal Anthem.
Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas, Supreme Defender of the Faith and Governor of the Church of England, Head of the Commonwealth and Queen of Jamaica.
That is the full title of the Head of State of Jamaica, Elizabeth of the House of Windsor. As I sat and wrote out the entire title, I couldn’t help but smirk. It appeared to me so pompous and convoluted, so far removed from Jamaica’s culture, values or attitudes; yet still this frail 83 year old British woman is Head of the State of Jamaica. Our Government is formed in her name (the executive power is vested in her, our parliament consists of her, a Senate and a House of Representatives), our laws are given assent through her representative and all high officials of our country are appointed by and through her. Wait, it gets better. Up until recently, our Prime Minister’s swore allegiance to her. The Most Hon. P.J. Patterson corrected this, and our PM’s now swear allegiance to the people of Jamaica. Thank you Mr. Patterson.
As Jamaica approaches the 50th anniversary of it’s independence, discussions and considerations are again centred around whether the time has come for our country to take the step towards Republican status. That is, having a President as our Head of State.
Let me state my bias at this point, I’m in support of Jamaica becoming a republic.
The present Prime Minister, Bruce Golding, indicated in the House of Representatives this year that he would begin discussions on deciding if and when Jamaica should adopt republican status. According to him, the issue of contention was how the President should be appointed, a general election? Or another method of appointment? He says there is disagreement on this.
However, a recent poll shows that 6 in every 10 Jamaican national believes that Elizabeth II should remain as Head of State. I admit myself baffled, genuinely puzzled, that any Jamaican could wish to hold on to this connection. For me, it is a matter of national dignity, full independence and pride. As far as I understand the role of Head of State, this should be a person the country can rally around. A symbol of the country’s shared values and attitudes; this person should reflect and embody the uniqueness of a people. Queen Elizabeth is anything but that for Jamaica. In fact, I doubt the monarch knows very much of our culture and realities. She has not lived the Jamaican life, she does not know the day to day struggles of our people. She could not possibly understand what it means to be Jamaican, let alone to represent the spirit, resilience and pride of our people. She rarely even comes here. I think in 1962 our leaders perhaps saw some political advantage of retaining her as Head of State, it was perhaps necessary then. We were after all a brand new country. We needed the connection. That necessity has long since passed.
After some 300 years of emancipation and 50 years of independence, I’m saddened to see that our people have not yet understood the significance of either of these feats. I say this because the same poll referenced above tells us that the majority of those polled believe that Jamaica should still be a British colony. This amounts to a slap in the faces of all those who gave their lives so that we could enjoy a free and independent society. I t would appear that instead of coming together and truly building Jamaica, we would prefer to default back to Britain in order to live an easier life. That’s the only explanation I could think of. I concede that our political leadership has failed in ensuring that 50 years later Jamaica is on a path to development, but isn’t that our fault? Did we really demand and require change and progress from our leaders? Or did we just accept empty promises and white washed policies? Think about it.
The situation is worse because Britain seems keen on severing all ties with us. We require visas to travel there, their Supreme Court President has subtly suggested that we should stop bring our judicial appeals there and perhaps the greatest embarrassment is that the very man who represents the Queen here as Head of State, requires a visa to visit the woman he represents. And yet we as people, so devoid of pride and any sense of national dignity, would suggest we would be better off as a colony. Have we forgotten the injustices our people suffered under colonization? The labour riots? The marches for rights? The violent suppression of those demonstrations? The lack of a universal right to vote? I go further, have we forgotten that Britain and it’s society enslaved our ancestors? Have we forgotten? And if we have, why? I do not wish to be sensational, but these are the issues I’ve seriously taken into consideration. We need a Head of State that understands what it means to be Jamaican. One that can inspire our people to greater heights, that person is not Elizabeth Windsor.
I’m calling for Jamaica to do what is right and what is dignified and adopt a republican status. I’m proposing that the President be elected by ballot of the House of Representatives, any candidate receiving a 2/3 majority of the vote would be elected President. I’m proposing that this person be a natural born citizen of Jamaica, resident in the country 10 years prior to his/her election. This person would be elected to a term of 10 years and should not be eligible for re-election after that term expires. This person could only be removed by death, resignation or impeachment (a trial conducted by the Chief Justice sitting with 4 other justices of the Supreme Court). I further propose that this person be commander in chief of the armed forces of Jamaica and have discretion in :
– Appointing The Speaker of the House of Representatives (not an elected member)
– Appointing The President of the Senate (not an elected member)
– Appointing 5 Members to the Senate
– Appointing All Other High Officials, after consultation with the relevant body (Public Services Commission, Judicial Services Commission etc)
– Appointing Commissioners of Enquiry & determining Terms of Reference
– Declaring States of Emergency, after consulting with the Cabinet
This person should also be entitled to sit in any Cabinet meeting and should have the power to bring sanctions against the Prime Minister and any Government Minister for misconduct, with the advice and consent of the House of Representatives.
I have more detailed recommendations, but time and space (and your patience) will not allow me to continue.
In short, I want a President who will have some amount of executive power but still answerable to the parliament. In granting some powers to the President, we lessen the central role of the Prime Minister in our democracy.
So yes, God may save the Queen; but let Him save her for the United Kingdom and other realms where she has more influence and relevance. The time has come for Jamaica to become a fully independent state, The Republic of Jamaica.