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“The Queen’s death has only once again raised the debate on the topic of when Jamaica will finally become a republic,” Jamaican journalist Damion Mitchell describes the events of the last days for the List of News.
Jamaica has been independent since 1962, but the head of state remains the British monarch, who only rules there with the title of the King of Jamaica. In addition to the island, 13 other states remain in a similar personal union with Britain.
Voices for secession from the Crown grew stronger in Jamaica even before the death of Elizabeth II. It was the death of the longest-reigning monarch and the accession of the not-so-popular King Charles III. could speed up the whole process even more. “When something this fundamental happens, it acts as a catalyst,” Mitchell explains of the increased interest in the subject of the Republic of Jamaica.
Republicanization of the Caribbean
The island nation in the Caribbean, which was a crucial territory in the early days of British colonialism, is far from alone in these considerations.
Independent states that have the same head of state as the United Kingdom, currently King Charles III, are referred to as Commonwealth Realms.
“This is a matter that must be discussed in a referendum in the next three years,” he said about the possible establishment of a republic after the death of Elizabeth II. and the accession of Charles III. Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne.
His words to ITV News were subsequently picked up by the world’s media. After the death of the British monarch, Prime Minister Browne was the first to clearly indicate that the new king could rule fewer countries. Becoming a republic would be “the final step towards independence to ensure we are truly a sovereign state”, Browne added.
It is from the Caribbean that the voices about the creation of republics and severing ties with Great Britain sound the loudest, after all, there are 8 countries headed by the British king. In addition to Jamaica and Antigua and Barbuda, the states of Saint Kitts and Nevis or Belize have also indicated plans to become republics in the future. Already in November 2021, Barbados definitively severed the formal personnel union with Britain.
“It is a question to what extent (the death of the queen and the accession of a new king) will trigger a desire for the independence of individual territories,” said Lukáš Perutka from the Institute of International Studies at the Faculty of Social Sciences of Charles University. “However, the death of the Queen does not mean anything fundamental for the Commonwealth, if we are talking about the continuity of the commonwealth, because already in 2018, when the leaders of these countries met, it was clearly determined that after the death of Elizabeth II. her son Karel will take over,” he further states for Seznam Zprávy.
Nevertheless, journalist Mitchell believes in a fundamental change for his country. “I hope it will happen. The next step for Jamaica would be to become a republic,” he said. He stressed that although Jamaica has its own government and self-government, some institutions are still dependent on decisions from London, such as the judiciary, and this should change, he said.
William and Kate’s trip to the Caribbean? Protests and an apology
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. they visited Belize, Jamaica and the Bahamas this March.
But other territories are also sending signals about changing moods in society. Australia, for example, after the death of Queen Elizabeth II. announced that Charles III will not “automatically” replace the image of the late empress on the local five-dollar bill, Reuters reported.
Deputy Federal Chancellor of the Exchequer Andrew Leigh said the Queen was on the banknote because of her personality and not her position as monarch. Someone else could appear on it in the future, he admitted. At the same time, Britain itself began to integrate the new monarch into everyday life practically immediately after the queen’s death.
However, Australia is not yet considering a possible formal secession, as Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said. Although he admitted that the country could become a republic in the future, it is not currently on the agenda.
British Empire in the Caribbean
Colonies in the Caribbean were a vital area for the British, especially in the 17th century. At the time, it was the first large and important colony, mainly due to agriculture and the refining of the key food – sugar, which was imported from the Caribbean to Britain. The region was also a major destination for enslaved Africans.
Only Jamaica was more important to Britain in the 18th century than all 13 colonies in the emerging United States of America, states political scientist Lukáš Perutka.
British interest in the Caribbean began to decline in the 19th century and shifted to India. Nevertheless, it retained its strategic importance thanks to the naval bases being built.
After the Second World War, the people of the Caribbean became a vital labor force migrating to Great Britain. But that changed in the 1970s and 1980s, when the British economy began to stagnate.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also ruled out a possible severing of ties in the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, she said that New Zealand could become a republic in her lifetime, the prime minister is 42 years old. But there are more pressing issues plaguing the archipelago, she said.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also expressed his loyalty to the new monarch and the British Crown. “On behalf of the Government of Canada, we pledge our allegiance to the new King of Canada, His Majesty King Charles III. And we offer him our full support,” he said. Similar statements came from Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands or the oceanic Tuvalu.
According to political scientist Perutka, republican tendencies are stronger in former colonies that have their own experience with slavery, which is precisely the Caribbean region. African slaves were transported there by the British and further traded with them. The slavery and persecution of previous generations is thus one of the burning and unresolved issues in British-Caribbean relations.
A generation that is not interested
The popularity of the royal family in the Caribbean is not what it used to be. “I see generational change as a possible cause. The younger generation is more inclined towards complete independence. Young people no longer have any relationship or ties with the monarchy. In the Caribbean, the establishment of republics is therefore a question of the next few years,” says political scientist Perutka.
According to him, the royal family is mostly indifferent to Caribbean countries. And if it is not, it mainly depends on your own experience. “Charles III. he is certainly more popular than he was before. However, he is accompanied by scandals that Elizabeth II. she didn’t have People in the Caribbean also have a lot in mind about the tabloidized divorce with the much-loved Princess Diana,” he explains further.
Karl III then in the Caribbean, his interest in ecology and climate change can also be detrimental. “The more developing the country, the less supporters of environmental policy, because it hinders the development of countries,” explains Perutka.
According to the political scientist, Buckingham Palace was also damaged by the recent accusations of the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan, who spoke publicly about racism in the royal family, which was confirmed by her husband Prince Harry, as well as the Windrush case of 2018, for example.
The Windrush scandal
Caribbean refugees who came to the UK from 1948 to the early 1970s faced persecution due to a mistake by the authorities. They were living in Britain legally, but because of the missing documents, they are at risk of deportation or losing their jobs. The case shook the British government in 2018.
“Much of Jamaican society feels anger towards the British monarchy. Neither love nor apathy. (Jamaicans) don’t respect her and have something against her. To a large extent, slavery is to blame for this,” explains the Jamaican journalist Mitchell.
Stay or leave?
However, the transition from monarchy to republic would not be without challenges in the future. “The office of president costs something, and it would certainly be more expensive than a monarchy. The president or president would have to create his own apparatus,” Perutka gives an example.
A change in state constitution would pose a higher security risk for some states. “For example, Belize has a long-standing border dispute with Guatemala. If Belize were to become independent, aid from Great Britain might not automatically come,” he continues.
Separation from the British crown could also mean a lesser level of involvement of Britain in the field of economy and development cooperation and could fundamentally affect tourism. At the same time, this is essential for the region, and the British, for example, can benefit from the fact that they do not need a visa when traveling. According to Perutka, it is a mistake to think that republicanization will alleviate the countries’ problems.
For Jamaica, the establishment of a republic would primarily mean a definitive end to colonial history and a new beginning, Mitchell is convinced. According to him, the end of political ties would not result in the end of trade ties. He sees no disadvantages for the island.
Calls for severing ties with Britain or sending signals about accepting one’s own path are not the only things coming to the fore at the moment.
Death of Elizabeth II. and the accession of Charles III. once again revived discussions about redressing colonial wrongs. South Africans, for example, are calling for the return of one of the largest cut diamonds, the Cullinan I, which was discovered in South Africa in 1905 and is now part of the crown jewels, reports the American CNN. In support of this move, a petition was even created with more than 6,000 signatories.
Similarly, there are rumors from India about the return of the precious Koh-i-Noor diamond, found in the 13th century in southern India. It came into British hands in the 19th century, when it was handed over by the Punjabi Maharaja Duleep Singh as part of a surrender agreement, reports the American server NBC News. Currently, the whole world can watch him on the royal crown.
However, an apology from the former colonial power would be enough for some to start with. “It cannot be said that Charles III. or the Crown (their past) reflected and apologized. During a recent visit to the Caribbean, Prince Charles mentioned that he found (British colonial deeds) unfortunate and that it was a stain on the history of the empire, but there was no official apology,” explains Perutka.
Mitchell is of the same opinion. “(The Crown) should first of all apologize and admit guilt. To apologize for enslaving our ancestors and robbing our land of our gold, which was then sugar. We demand reparations and compensation for what they took from us,” he says.
However, according to Perutka, Britain is further along in its steps regarding the recognition of its historical role than, for example, France or the Netherlands. However, they are rather negative and evasive about financial compensation or possible repatriations, he adds.