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Jamaica needs a republican movement
Jamaica celebrates 50 years since gaining political independence from the United Kingdom this year. To build on this theme of independence, Prime Minister Bruce Golding has called on his country to become a republic:
"Transforming Jamaica from a monarchical to a republican state means no disrespect, and must not be interpreted in this way," Golding said.
"I have long believed that if I am to have a queen, it must be a Jamaican queen. I would not wish to see us celebrate 50 years of Independence without completing that part of our 'sovereignisation', for want of a better word," he told legislators.
The Government and Opposition have agreed to work towards putting in place certain constitutional arrangements, including replacing the Queen as head of state, before Jamaica turns 50.
As with New Zealand, it looks like there's a lot more work to do to get public opinion onside. A poll accompanying the article states 44% of the 1,008 surveyed said "the current Westminster system should be retained", while 35% supported a "republican system". Another 21% said they didn't know. The question is clearly inaccurate, as creating a republic does not mean abandoning the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy. Jamaica clearly needs a republican movement of its own to dispel such myths.
Moreover, as the crowing from opponents of change emphasises, change cannot be driven by politicians alone. The people just don't trust them. As we saw with the disastrous referendums in St Vincent and the Grenadines, where the opposition opposed change on the basis it didn't go far enough, and Australia where the Prime Minister fought tooth and nail to mutilate the republican model to make it unacceptable, political interference undermines republican sentiment.
Interestingly, there have been moves as far back as 1995 for Jamaica to have an indigenous president as its head of state. Much like New Zealand, it seems that things don't move quickly in Jamaica. A republican movement would change that.