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A visit for the future

FOLLOWING HIS victory in the last Jamaican election, Prime Minister P.J. Patterson hinted that his would be the last Jamaican government to swear loyalty to the British Monarch. And yet here it is, at the cusp of another election campaign, lavishly welcoming back Queen Elizabeth II.

It would be stretching the point to read lingering royalist sympathies into this gesture, reflecting as it does good Jamaican hospitality. All the same, the ceremonies attending the Queen's Jubilee may testify to a lingering ambivalence on the part of Jamaica's political leaders. Committed to renouncing the British connection, they still retain a certain attachment to it. Perhaps this is inevitable, given the intermingling of tendrils that is bound to accompany such a long, shared history.

In that case, redefinition rather than renunciation may be the way forward. Regardless of the future of the monarchy in Jamaica, this British government has showed an eagerness to bring its relationship to the world into the 21st century. Recent pronouncements by Prime Minister Tony Blair on tours of India and Africa seem to signal a new view of post-imperial Britain.

In hindsight, it is remarkable how painless Britain's break with its colonial past was, when compared to other European countries. Today, its government declares the empire firmly in the past, saying it wants to become an ally to Third World countries as a new world is built.

So as Jamaica looks back, let it also look forward. Let this visit not so much renew old ties as cement new ones. It is a moment which, if not yet ready to be seized, certainly merits our close attention.

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