While the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge may very well be on a charm offensive during the royal visit to Jamaica, Andrew Holness, the Prime Minister of Jamaica, told them on Wednesday that Jamaica wishes to cut all ties to the monarchy. And Jamaica is not alone in this, other Caribbean nations are also likely to be planning to leave the Commonwealth. Protestors gathered at some of William and Kate’s stops, calling on Britain to apologise. But although the Duke expressed ‘profound sorrow’ and condemned the ‘abhorrent slavery’ he stopped short of issuing a formal apology. Commenting on Prince William’s words, the BBC’s royal correspondent said ‘sorrow’ was not ‘sorry’:
“Some will be disappointed about that. But ‘sorry’ would have been a different order of magnitude, carrying with it acceptance of responsibility and opening up the question of financial compensation.”
Many of the nearly three million Caribbeans living on the island were surprised by their Prime Minister’s statement. Director of Stand up for Jamaica, Carla Gulluta said:
“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.”
Together with dozens of other organisations, her NGO for human rights last year signed an open letter seeking reparations as well as an apology from the United Kingdom.
Author, cultural historian, and Windrush campaigner, Paul Vernon, called on Jamaicans to reflect:
“Britain still has key legal and economic ties, which makes it difficult for a country like Jamaica to be truly independent. This year is an opportunity for people to reflect: do we want to be a republic, and what does that mean?”
Royal visit sparks protests
The Duke and Duchess’ visit was meant to be a celebration of the island’s history and culture but the anti-colonial sentiment that has been growing louder in recent years surfaced quickly. Protesters gathered and William and Kate saw no option but to cancel their visit to Belize village which was to kickstart their tour of the island.
In Kingston, protestors gathered outside the British High Commission. One little girl held up a placard which read: “Kings, Queens and Princesses and Princes belong in fairytales not in Jamaica!”
Attending the same protest, Opal Adisa, human rights advocate told Sky News:
“Kate and William are beneficiaries, so they are, in fact, complicit because they are positioned to benefit specifically from our ancestors, and we’re not benefitting from our ancestors.
“The luxury and the lifestyle that they have had and that they continue to have, traipsing all over the world for free with no expense, that is a result of my great, great grandmother and grandfather, their blood and tears and sweat.”
Adisa works with Advocates Network, a group of Jamaican business leaders, doctors and musicians, and politicians. Last year, the coalition penned an open letter calling on Britain to mark the 60 anniversary of Jamaica’s independence with compensation and by issuing a formal apology.
“You know, we don’t have anything personally against Kate and Prince William, and even the Queen, for that matter, but we’re simply saying you’ve done wrong, and it is way past time that you admit that you’ve done wrong and when you do, redressing it.”
Opposition leader echoes PM’s call for independence
Jamaica’s opposition leader, Mark Golding also wants to cut ties with the monarchy. However, he feels a referendum would reveal people’s true opinions on the issue. According to government officials, efforts are underway to examine Jamaica’s constitution transitioning into a republic.
Some have warned that if Jamaica was to become fully independent, issues may remain unresolved. Law expert, Mike Henry, told the Associated Press that an apology and reparation may not be forthcoming were Jamaica to leave the Commonwealth.
Government corruption is also said to have eroded public confidence.
Andrew Holness – We want to move on
Jamaica’s PM left no doubt as to his government’s intention and insistence Britain resolve remaining issues. During a photo opportunity with William and Kate, he said:
“There are issues here which as you would know are unresolved.”
“But 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.”