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Jamaica PM declares farewell to the British queen

By Starla Muhammad -Staff Writer- | Last updated: Jan 23, 2012 - 6:04:53 PM

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Jamaica's Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller smiles after being sworn in at King’s House in Kingston, Jamaica, Jan. 5. Simpson Miller was sworn in for the second time as Jamaica’s prime minister, pledging to ease the island’s deep poverty, boost the chronically sputtering economy, heal political divisions and sever colonial-era links with Britain. Photo: AP/Wide World photos
( - Newly-elected Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller of Jamaica, in a show of strength and pride for her country, declared 2012 as not only as the Jubilee Year of Jamaica’s 50 years of independence, but would also mark the movement toward true independence from Britain.

In her Jan. 5 inaugural address the prime minister said her country needs to complete the circle of independence.

“In this regard, we will, therefore, initiate the detachment from the monarchy to become a republic with our own indigenous president as head of state,” said Ms. Simpson-Miller in her address. This is Ms. Simpson-Miller’s second stint as prime minister, her first being in 2006 when she replaced P.J. Patterson, becoming the country’s first female head of government.

Ms. Simpson-Miller’s sentiments come on the heels of an historic tour of Jamaica and several other Caribbean nations by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan in December in which the world leader directed a message of unity, self-reliance and self-determination to countries in the region.

Min. Farrakhan, whose father was Jamaican, met with former prime ministers and leaders of both the Jamaican People’s National Party (PNP), the party of Ms. Simpson-Miller, and the Jamaica Labour Party encouraging them to cooperate for the benefit of their country.


'Under the influence of The International Monetary Fund, World Bank and other outsiders, Jamaica was forced to sell off its state-owned industries and resources, replaced instead by foreign companies.'
—Hughie Rose, U.K. Rep., New Black Panther Party

Jamaica became a British colony in 1655 and achieved its independence August 6, 1962 but remains within the Commonwealth with the British monarch as its head of state. “I love the Queen, she is a beautiful lady, and apart from being a beautiful lady she is a wise lady and a wonderful lady,” said Ms. Simpson-Miller after taking the oath of office, according to media reports. “But I think time come,” she added in what one media outlet said was a Jamaican patois dialect.

Queen Elizabeth’s grandson Prince Harry is scheduled to visit Jamaica in March. The British monarchy is head of state in 16 commonwealth countries in addition to overseeing the British Isles. Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Jamaica are just a few countries where the queen has overseas subjects.

According to the BBC, a Buckingham Palace spokesman said the issue of the Jamaican head of state was entirely a matter for the Jamaican government and its people.

The influence of Great Britain in the everyday affairs of Jamaica’s government could make for a challenging transition but one that many say is long overdue.

“When you look at the definition of a queen you know a queen is a sovereign, a queen is a goddess and if a queen is a goddess, the goddess of Jamaica cannot be a White woman from England. That doesn’t make any sense,” said Hilary Muhammad, whose parents are from Jamaica. Mr. Muhammad also serves as the U.K. representative for Min. Farrakhan and was part of the delegation that accompanied the Muslim leader to Jamaica.

Hughie Rose, U.K. representative of the New Black Panther Party, is also of Jamaican descent. Both of his parents immigrated to the U.K. from Jamaica in the early 1960s right after the nation gained independence. Mr. Rose still has family in Jamaica and visits the island at least twice a year where he has land.

“Jamaica’s a beautiful place, but we’re still in servitude to our former colonial masters,” Mr. Rose told The Final Call.

IMF (International Bankers) decimating one country after another

Mr. Rose said a history of manipulation and heavy influence in Jamaica by the U.S. and U.K. has thwarted past efforts to achieve real independence. “Jamaica in 1980, for seven years was the largest recipient of aid besides Israel (from the U.S.). So you can understand the powers that propped up Jamaica in between that time,” said Mr. Rose. Constant interference by the U.S. in the affairs of Jamaica is one of the reasons complete sovereignty has been elusive, he added.

Under the influence of The International Monetary Fund, World Bank and other outsiders, Jamaica was forced to sell off its state-owned industries and resources, replaced instead by foreign companies, said Mr. Rose.

“Out of every dollar of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) that we earn, eighty cents of it goes towards servicing the debt and the loans of the IMF and World Bank,” he added.

There are those in Jamaica that not only seem hesitant at the notion of life from under the British crown but some seem to think the country is already independent and free.

“In 1962, when Princess Margaret came to Jamaica to witness our Independence, she also brought with her a message from the Queen stating that ‘My Government in the United Kingdom has laid down its responsibilities and as such have ceased to have any authority in and over Jamaica,’ ” said a letter to the editor at the Jamaica Observer.

“If that single statement is not an indication of our sovereignty, then what is? The fact of the matter is that Jamaica is already a free, sovereign democracy, and we did not need a republic to reach this stage. So why do we need one now?” the letter continued.

Yet if a country does not control all aspects of its judiciary, agriculture and economics, how independent is it?

“If we’re going to enjoy independence, then independence cannot be a man just taking down his flag and his rules, regulations, policies and procedures and protocols have been in place and that’s what’s happened for the most part in Jamaica,” said Mr. Muhammad.

“They (Jamaica) have a system of jurisprudence but all cases can be appealed to the U.K., who can overturn any decision that is made in a court in Jamaica, which means Jamaica doesn’t have the independence to make a decision without the U.K. having the right and the authority to overturn it,” said the student minister.

Mr. Rose agreed adding, “We don’t even have a judicial system where we can sentence our own people … To me, that’s not an independent country or a free country. It’s either you’re free or you’re not free.”

Currently the final court of appeal in Jamaica’s court system is the judiciary in the United Kingdom. Ms. Simpson-Miller wants the decisions to appeal or overrule handled by a Caribbean court of justice in Trinidad.

“One important agenda item will be to establish the Caribbean Court of Justice in its final appellate jurisdiction; and in this way, end judicial surveillance from London. We must fully repatriate our sovereignty,” said the prime minister.

Mr. Rose told The Final Call that prime ministers before have also spoken about cutting ties with the monarchy without much success.

“She’s going to have to be forced to do it because she put it out there … P.J. (Patterson) discussed it too. People I know on the ground, they want that to happen. They don’t understand why if we’re free, somebody that’s not doing anything for us is head of state,” said Mr. Rose.

“I think that Jamaica’s come of age, and the Honorable Louis Farrakhan in going in and out of the territory and making it very clear that yes the past was the past but we have reached a time now where we have grown to the degree wherein the country must take responsibility for itself,” said Mr. Muhammad.

Rev. Wellesley A. Blair, a well-known Jamaican clergyman and chair of the PNP’s Integrity Commission, urged the new prime minister to avoid foreign influence in Jamaica’s affairs.

“We are a sovereign nation. No one from outside of Jamaica must tell us what to do. I want that to be placed in our hearts and mind most emphatically,” said Rev. Blair, reported the Jamaica Observer. “In executing your duties, please do not feel threatened by anyone from foreign or ina the yard, no outside government or any local group. No matter what they wave in front of you, please God first and at all times. Let no man look at you and say do this or else. I prefer the ‘or else’, because with God all things are possible,” added Rev. Blair speaking from Portmore New Testament Church Jan. 8 in front of his congregation, which included the prime minister and members of her cabinet.

In a predictable and typical method of making mischief, some media outlets tried to paint Ms. Simpson-Miller’s pronouncement as a sign of rebellion or disrespect toward the British monarchy. Britain’s UK Mail ran the Jan. 6 headline, “ ‘I think time come’: Jamaica to ditch Queen as official Head of State as new PM vows to sever colonial-era links with Britain.”

Peter Hunt, a diplomatic and royal correspondent for the BBC added to the mix writing, “Rhetoric is one thing. Action quite another. Mrs. Simpson-Miller has plenty of more pressing issues to address in her country’s 50th year of independence from British rule.”

Yet for the sons and daughters of Jamaica used to functioning as a commonwealth, the move toward true independence cannot come too soon. Mr. Muhammad used a scriptural analogy in explaining the nervousness some Jamaicans may feel in making a complete break from the British crown.

“In the scripture it says that a man must leave his parents and cleave to his wife and she must cleave to her husband. Now you’ve never done that before but you’ve come of age. You have to experience that which is necessary for you to grow into your full maturity and I think the Caribbean and parts of Africa are at that stage now,” said Mr. Muhammad.

Mr. Muhammad applauded the prime minister for taking this stance in a respectful way with no animus or disrespect. “I don’t think it’s anything racial. I don’t think it’s anything that is filled with strife or vitriol. I think it’s just a matter of the country coming to age and whatever challenges it must face, then let it face it in order to be fully independent,” he added.