(KINGSTON, Jamaica) — As Prince William and Duchess Kate are met with protests during their arrival to Jamaica for Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee, which marks the 70th anniversary of her coronation, pressure for the country to cut ties with the British monarchy continues to grow.
Roughly 350 protestors demonstrated in Kingston, where activists from the Advocates Network delivered an open letter to the British High Commission on Tuesday, calling for reparations and a formal apology from the royal family for its colonial past and ties to slavery.
The protest in the Jamaican capital comes just days after the royal couple were forced to change plans in Belize, after locals protested their initial arrival. The island of Barbados in November became a republic after officially cutting ties with Queen Elizabeth as head of state.
While the royal family attempts to strengthen its relationship with commonwealth nations throughout the Caribbean, the controversies have reignited a fierce debate in Jamaica over how and when the island would remove Queen Elizabeth as head of state.
Robert Nesta Morgan, the minister without portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister, told ABC News that there is consensus within the country, and agreement between the Jamaican government and opposition leadership that the country is “moving towards becoming a republic.”
Prime Minister Andrew Holness appointed Marlene Malahoo Forte, the country’s former attorney general, to be the minister of constitutional affairs, which took effect in January. Her new role, in part, oversees and advises the government as it seeks to transition to republic status.
Malahoo Forte told the Jamaica Observer in December that Holness gave her instructions for the constitution to be amended for the purposes of becoming a republic.
The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People’s National Party (PNP) met on Feb. 27 at the University of West Indies to discuss what a republic would look like, according to Morgan. However, disagreements on whether the country would have an executive president or a ceremonial president have stalled the referendum needed to move forward.
Unlike the Island of Barbados, which removed Elizabeth as head of state with a simple majority vote, Jamaica has entrenched provisions in its constitution that require a referendum, allowing the electorate to vote on the proposal before it heads to the legislature. The amendment to become a republic would then have to be approved by a two-thirds majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
“It’s not a straightforward simple process. It requires a lot of planning. It requires a lot of public education and it also requires a lot of consensus between both the opposition and the government,” Morgan told ABC News.
He continued, “I think there is agreement between the two sides [Jamaica Labour Party and the People’s National Party] and there has been discussions for many decades … we want to move to a republic, but there were sticking points.”
Despite the arduous process to sever ties with the British monarchy, Morgan said he believes the appointment of a minister of constitutional affairs is “a big step.”
The minister also reacted to Tuesday’s protests led by the Advocates Network, saying the government respects the rights of its citizens to protest.
“We are a democracy and we are a country that very much values free speech. So the government does not reject or view with disdain those who are seeking to fulfill their constitutional right to protest.” Morgan said, later adding that the Jamaican government believes in the concept of reparations from Britain.
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