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The 1962 Constitution

D.K. Duncan

"It was the first time in the history of a Colonial territory moving from a Colonial State to an Independent State where a DRAFT CONSTITUTION was prepared, receiving the joint approval of Government and Opposition, presented to Her Majesty's Government, and her Majesty's Government INVITED TO PICK IT TO PIECES."

THESE WERE the words of the then Minister of Education, Florizel A. Glasspole as recorded in the Jamaican Hansard of 1961-1962. Professor Trevor Munroe of the University of the West Indies (UWI) provides this and other valuable information in his 1972 publication - "The Politics of Constitutional Decolonization: Jamaica, 1944-1962."

Another Government member in the 1959-1962 People's National Party (PNP) administration, Dr. Ivan Lloyd, Minister of Health observed in 1962 that: "There has been no overflowing enthusiasm, either within the House or outside it with reference to Independence and nationhood."

After 40 years of Political Independence and as the "Independence Constitution" continues to come under review, it might be useful to reflect on its origins and development. This could also lead to a better understanding of Glasspole's and Lloyd's observations.

Eight stages of Jamaica's Constitutional history have been identified by historian Clinton Black and discussed in a previous contribution (D.K. Duncan - Gleaner, June 25/2002). The last four stages are:

1. Representative Crown Colony - 1944

2. Partial Responsibility - 1953

3. Internal Self Rule - 1959

4. Full Responsibility - Political Independence - 1962


"The Jamaica (Constitution) Order-in-Council 1962", one could argue, had its foundations in "The Jamaica (Constitution) Order-in-Council 1944." The 1944 order provided for a fully elected House (32 constituencies), a nominated second Chamber called the Legislative Council - (the future Senate of 1962) and an Executive Council (the future Cabinet of 1959). The Executive Council had five elected members and five crown officials with final responsibility resting with the Governor-in-Executive Council. The elected members were essentially apprentices - in this the REPRESENTATIVE CROWN COLONY STAGE.

The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) won the first General Election (in 1944) - contested under Universal Adult Suffrage. They won 22 constituencies with 41% of the popular vote. The PNP won five seats with 24%. Independent candidates won 5 seats and along with Third Parties received 35% of the popular vote. Alexander Bustamante, the Majority Leader, named the five elected members to the Executive Council - himself and three others from his party and one of the five independent elected members.

The JLP again won the second Parliamentary General Election in 1949 with 17 seats. Although the PNP won the popular vote by 44% to 43%, they got only 13 seats. Independents won two seats and along with Third Parties got 13% of the votes cast. The five elected members on the Executive Council were again named by the Majority Leader.

A 1953 Order-in-Council introduced the Ministerial System - "transforming the ministers in embryo into full fledged Ministers." Bustamante, the Majority Leader, became Jamaica's first Chief Minister. The 1953 Order-in-Council left Justice, Defence and Foreign Affairs outside of the control of Jamaicans ushering in the stage of PARTIAL RESPONSIBILITY.

The PNP won the 1955 Parliamentary Elections. They received 51% of the votes and won 18 seats. The JLP received 39% and won 14. Independents and Third Parties secured 10% of the votes but no seats. Norman Manley became the new Chief Minister.

In August, 1959 the Constitution was again amended. "Executive power was vested in a CABINET which superseded the Council of Ministers. The Chief Minister was now designated PREMIER (and) had the right to recommend the appointment of not more than 13 members of the Legislative Council. The Governor's reserved powers were removed except for continued power over Defence, Foreign Affairs and Constitutional Amendments." Norman Manley became Jamaica's first PREMIER setting the stage for formal INTERNAL SELF RULE from 1959-1962.


The National Independence movement had given way to a Regional one with the holding of elections to a Federal Parliament on March 25, 1958. The JLP won 12 of the 17 seats assigned to Jamaica (14 parish seats plus 3 county seats). The PNP won 5. Neither Norman Manley nor Alexander Bustamante was a candidate in that election. Both parties had, however, come to support the Federation idea.

Although losing the Jamaican section of the Federal Elections in 1958, the PNP won the National Parliamentary General Elections of July 1959. The PNP received 55% of the popular vote, the JLP - 44%. Third Parties and Independents got less than 1%. The PNP won 29 seats to the JLP's 16. The number of constituencies had been increased from the 32 to 45 for these elections.

A combination of circumstances led to the JLP refusing to contest a Federal by-election in St. Thomas, Jamaica on Nomination Day - May 31, 1960. The JLP reversed its position of support for the "Federation".

Norman Manley reacted swiftly - that same day. He "announced that a Referendum would be held as soon as possible to decide whether or not Jamaica should continue in the Federation."

The Referendum, held 18 months later on September 19, 1961 resulted in defeat for the PNP's position. Forty-six per cent of the Jamaican electorate voted YES for Federation, while 54% supported the JLP's position and voted No.

The results signalled a major shift from Regional Independence back to National Independence. Trevor Munroe notes - "the constitutional jog-trot quickened into a veritable gallop to Independence."

Sixteen members of a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament were appointed in late October 1961 "to prepare proposals for a constitution for Jamaica to take effect at Independence." This was just one month after the referendum.

The first meeting of the committee was held on October 31, 1961. The press and public were excluded from the deliberations. "Within three hours of the opening session, the decision was effectively taken that Jamaica should be a constitutional monarchy with a bi-cameral legislature."

After much debate by the Committee, the Public was allowed 30 days to make submissions. Seventy memoranda were submitted. A sub-committee of two persons - Florizel Glasspole and Neville Ashenheim met only twice to vet them.

The records of Hansard show some interesting comments and decisions made in camera by the Founding Fathers of our Constitution.

A new Jamaica Constitution was drafted by January 1962 and later discussed with Her Majesty's Government. The Jamaican Parliament ratified it on February 27, 1962 - less than six months after the referendum on Federation was held.

Parliamentary Elections were held on April 10, 1962. The JLP won 26 seats and 50% of the votes cast while the PNP retained 19 seats and 49% of the votes cast. The Jamaican flag was raised at midnight on August 6, 1962. Princess Margaret formally handed over the Order-in-Council in Parliament on August 7, 1962. Sir Alexander Bustamante became the island's first Prime Minister heralding the final constitutional stage of Full Responsibility - Political Independence.

Former PNP General Secretary and Government Minister in the PNP administration of the 1970's, Dr. Duncan - a dental surgeon, recently established "the D.K. Duncan Political Institute". e-mail: dktruth@hotmail.com

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