6 Jan 2012

Jamaica to become a republic?

No sooner was she sworn in – than Jamaica’s new prime minister declared she wants to drop Her Majesty the Queen as head of state and cut all colonial-era links.

Portia Simpson Miller

Portia Simpson Miller, who led her People’s National Party to a landslide victory in the country’s general elections, gave her inaugral address today at the governor-general’s official residence in Kingston.

She insisted she loved the Queen, describing her as “a beautiful lady, and … a wise lady and a wonderful lady.”

However, she then added, in Jamaican patois: “But I think time come.”

She also vowed to end what she called “judicial surveillance from London”, by installing the Caribbean Court of Justice based in Trinidad as the highest court of appeal, instead of Britain’s Privy Council – a move that would probably require a referendum.

Tackling poverty

However Mrs Simpson Miller clearly has bigger problems on her hands than her relationship with the British monarchy, like soaring unemployment and a crippling national debt. She told the crowds in Kingston that she’d tackle Jamaica‘s deep poverty and economic troubles, declaring: “My administration will work tirelessly that while we try to balance the books, we balance people’s lives as well.”

And she appealed to Jamaicans to heal social divisions and come together as “brothers and sisters, not rivals and victims”.

No more Queen? (Reuters)

Jamaica gained independence from Britain in 1962, but has remained within the Commonwealth ever since, and still has the Queen as official head of state. Today Buckingham Palace was typically reticent, saying only that the issue was “entirely a matter for the Jamaican government and people”.

Harry’s visit

It’s just a few weeks before Prince Harry makes his first overseas trip to the island to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year. It’s not thought the proposed constitutional changes will disrupt his visit – although the exact itinerary is still being worked out.

However, it might become more of a farewell tour than a celebration of royal links. Welcome to the People’s Republic of Jamaica? Perhaps time come.