Thu | Dec 7, 2023

Letter of the Day | Be vigilant of oppressive political structures

Published:Tuesday | September 27, 2022 | 12:06 AM


In Jamaica, both legislation from Parliament and a referendum is required to transition from a constitutional monarchy to a republic. The United Kingdom also has a similar requirement. If she ever did decide to get rid of the monarchy, it would be a constitutional matter requiring legislation from parliament. Even before that, it would need to be endorsed by the British public through a referendum, which would have to be called for by the government.

On continental Europe, referendums have led to the abolition of the monarchy in Italy and Greece, as well as reaffirmed support for the institution in Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway, and Spain. In the Caribbean, a constitutional referendum was held in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines on November 25, 2009. Voters were asked whether they approved of a new constitution which would have replaced the constitution which has been in force since independence in 1979. The proposal gained support by only 43.13 per cent of voters, well short of the required two-thirds threshold.

If approved, the proposed constitution would have abolished the monarchy, and would have given more power to the opposition. Dr Derek O’Brien, commenting on Jamaica’s drift towards republicanism and possible consequences for the Caribbean, posits that “St Vincentians rejected the Bill because they did not approve of the other reforms that were being proposed… “ (May 26, 2016).

The Constitution is known as a ‘living’ document because it can be amended, even if it might seem dead due to our lack of knowledge of its content, or non-engagement with it. Conventional wisdom would have been to place before the people of Jamaica at the next local government elections, the question of becoming a republic with a ceremonial president, rather than overburdening this fundamental quest with other constitutional changes that might lead to its rejection.

Historically, both Jamaican political parties want to be the one to lead the island into republic status, but they are afflicted with ‘blindness of unbridled selfishness’, as demonstrated by the current Andrew Holness-led administration, through its Ministry of Legal and Constitutional Affairs, embarking upon a mammoth project of constitutional reforms.

With a Government determined, both explicitly and subtly, with the militarisation of the Jamaican society and a history of flouting the Constitution, along with an alleged agenda to abrogate the rights of its citizens, we are all called to be vigilant less we all become victims of new, oppressive political structures. Is Jamaica on a similar path like its Caribbean neighbour St Vincent in the proposed 2025 referendum?


Mandeville, Manchester