Mon | Jan 22, 2018

Role of monarchy and sovereignty obsolete?

Published:Wednesday | April 20, 2016 | 11:04 PM


The British newspaper "The Independent" have reported on Governor-General Sir Patrick Allen's throne speech that " Jamaican lawmakers will debate a constitutional amendment that would replace Britain's Queen Elizabeth II as head of state and make the island a republic" (April 15, 2016). This announcement has opened once again an international platform for debate on the role of the monarchy and sovereignty.

At the same time, there is much silence on the fact that within the Commonwealth of nations headed by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, are member states that are of republican status. These countries do not have the Queen as their head of state, but either an elected executive president or one that is appointed.

It was the struggle for self-government in India in 1947 that initiated the transformation of the Commonwealth to accommodate member states who had "ditched" the Queen as their head of state. India's constituent assembly decided to adopt a republican form of government, yet wished to remain within the Commonwealth.

It was at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers Meeting of 1949, that it was agreed that India might remain a member as a republic but accepting the monarch 'as the symbol of the free association of independent member nations and as such Head of the Commonwealth'. This development opened the way for other countries which adopted republican constitutions, or had a national monarch, to become Commonwealth members.

Currently the Commonwealth consists of 53 former colonies of Britian, of which 37 member states do not have the Queen as titular head of state.

The idea of the British Monarchy as head of state of an individual country is becoming obsolete and only present in 16 countries of the Commonwealth, including Jamaica. Clearly the model for good governance and trade relations lies in the association of former British colonies as members of the Commonwealth, and not in a few member states having the Queen as head of state.

The government of Jamaica have not announced withdrawing from the Commonwealth, but with republican status would have joined the other 37 states in recognising the monarchy "as the symbol of the free association of independent member nations and as such Head of the Commonwealth".

Dudley C. McLean

Box 1313, Mandeville, Manchester