The Caribbean push for freedom: Has the coronation accelerated plans for a Jamaican republic?

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Published May 5, 2023 at 11:37 AM

Reading time: 2 minutes

When it comes to Jamaica, “God save the King?” isn’t a phrase likely to be heard this upcoming weekend. In fact, the coronation of King Charles III, due to take place on 6 May 2023, may have indeed accelerated Jamaica’s plans to finally break away from the British monarchy and become a republic—something the nation has been working towards for some time.

According to Sky News, Jamaican officials and politicians are keen to hold a referendum on the matter “as early as 2024.” The country’s minister for legal and constitutional affairs, Marlene Malahoo Forte, recently stated: “While the United Kingdom is celebrating the coronation of the King, that is for the United Kingdom. Jamaica is looking to write a new constitution… which will sever ties with the monarch as our head of state.”

The country has been considering breaking away from the British monarchy for decades now. Former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, tried to cut ties with the institution in 2012 and attempted to establish a republic and rid Jamaica of all previous colonial powers. However, the plans never came to fruition.

The story of Jamaica’s struggle for independence is deeply intertwined with its history of colonialism and the transatlantic slave trade. As reported by Sky News, the National Library of Jamaica has found that around 600,000 captive Africans were forcibly brought to Jamaica during this time, with Britain emerging as one of the largest slave traders in the Atlantic in the 18th century.

This legacy of exploitation and oppression has left a lasting impact on the country, shaping its social, economic, and political landscape to this day. It’s a reminder that the fight for Jamaican sovereignty is not just a matter of breaking away from the British monarchy, but also a struggle against a history of injustice and inequality.

Prince William, on his trip to Jamaica last year, was met with a demonstration outside the British High Commission, at which protesters called for an apology and an acknowledgment of how the family has benefited from slavery.

Malahoo Forte, while discussing plans to pursue the referendum in 2024, further went on to note: “A lot of Jamaicans had warm affection and identified with Queen Elizabeth II. When Jamaica became independent, Queen Elizabeth was already on the throne. But they do not identify with King Charles. He is as foreign as it gets to us. Plain and simple.”

The minister added: “It’s time for us to say goodbye.” Pursuing self-determination in Jamaica and initiating a proper detachment from the British monarchy during the King’s coronation has given fresh impetus to this civilian and political movement. Becoming a republic would give Jamaicans greater control over their own affairs and mark a significant step towards true independence.

If the Caribbean nation were to become a republic, it would mean that the country would have its own head of state, who would be elected by the people or appointed by the government. This would mark a significant break from the country’s colonial past.

While an official timeline for a referendum  is not yet set in stone, the likelihood of it taking place in less than a year is ambitious yet potentially possible. If the referendum were to be successful, Jamaica would become the latest country in the Caribbean to break away from the British monarchy, following in the footsteps of Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica, and Guyana.

So, as King Charles prepares for his coronation, many Jamaicans are focused on their own path towards greater freedom. And with interest and loyalty in the monarchy seriously depreciating, both at home and abroad, it’s unknown how impactful or influential King Charles’ reign will even be. The winds of change are blowing, and Jamaica is ready to embrace them.

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