‘Moving on’: Jamaica tells Prince William it too wants to dump Queen

London: Prince William has been told face-to-face in a meeting with Jamaica’s Prime Minister that the Caribbean nation wants to become independent and plans to stage a referendum to remove the Queen as head of state in an attempt to address “unresolved issues”.

The Duke of Cambridge and his wife, Catherine, arrived in Jamaica on Tuesday as part of a week-long tour of former British colonies that coincides with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations marking her 70 years on the throne.

Prince William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, visit Trench Town Culture Yard Museum, Bob Marley’s former home, in Kingston, Jamaica. Credit:Getty

The pair faced have public questioning of the British Empire’s legacy and human rights record in Commonwealth countries, with protesters calling on the United Kingdom to pay reparations for slavery.

Last year Barbados, after nearly 400 years as a British colony, transitioned to a republic after a vote to cut the ties with the Crown – although it still remains a member of the Commonwealth.

Jamaica, with a population of almost 3 million people, has been independent for 60 years but endured hundreds of years of Spanish and British rule.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who led his Labour Party to a landslide victory in 2020, told the royal pair at a public event the country was “very happy” to have them visiting, but it needed to move on.

“Jamaica is a very free and liberal country and the people are very expressive. And I’m certain that you will have seen the spectrum of expression,” he said. “There are issues here which as you would know are unresolved”.

Prince William and Catherine with Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness and his wife Juliet at his office in Kingston on Wednesday.Credit:Getty Images

“Jamaica is, as you would see, a country that is very proud […] and we’re moving on. And we intend […] to fulfil our true ambition of being an independent, fully developed and prosperous country.”

Holness first vowed to turn Jamaica from a constitutional monarchy into a republic during his 2016 election campaign. He said his government would introduce a bill to replace the Queen with “a non-executive president as head of state”.

Amendments to the constitution must be approved by a two-thirds majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. However, certain articles, including any relating to the monarchy, can only be amended via a referendum.

A timeline for a referendum as not yet been set and experts say the process could take years.

Holness’ government last year said it would ask Britain for compensation for forcibly transporting an estimated 600,000 Africans to work on sugar cane and banana plantations. The farms created fortunes for British slaveholders.

About 350 protesters demonstrated in Kingston, where activists from the Advocates Network delivered an open letter to the British High Commission on Tuesday, calling for reparations and a formal apology from the royal family for its colonial past and ties to slavery.

Holness’ comments surprised many, AP reported.

“I did not know that the Prime Minister was going to say what he said today. I think it is a very important step forward,” said Carla Gullota, director of Stand Up for Jamaica, a non-profit human rights organisation that cosigned the letter.

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, during a visit to Shortwood Teachers’ College in Kingston, Jamaica. Credit:Getty

William was expected to address the issue during a speech at a state dinner on Wednesday, Kingston time (Thursday AEDT).

The eight-day Caribbean charm offensive is being undertaken on behalf of the Queen to strengthen British ties in the Commonwealth.

But it was soured from the opening day in Belize, one of the 14 realms outside of Britain where the Queen remains the head of state, where an indigenous community said the couple was not welcome because of an unreserved colonial-era land rights dispute.

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