“I love the Queen; she is a beautiful lady,” said newly-elected Portia Simpson Miller today, Jamaica’s first female Prime Minister, “but I think time come.”
Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Grenada, the Bahamas, Belize. All countries that are formally independent, yet have the Queen as their official head of state. Jamaica is another country that falls into that category, but today, Portia Simpson Miller, elected Prime Minister for the second time in last week’s election, pledged to change that. As she was sworn in, Simpson Miller made a 45 minute speech in which she vowed to drop the Queen as head of state and make the country a republic. She also promised to replace the privy council in London with the court of justice as Jamaica’s highest court of appeal, which she said would “end judicial surveillance from London”.
Jamaica became an independent country in 1962, and the very idea that they would retain a head of state who lives thousands of miles away seems extremely bizarre. Nevertheless, Simpson Miller has taken a bold step to mark her inauguration. Just one month after the first ever meeting of CELAC, the coalition of thirty-three American states, including Jamaica but excluding the US and Canada, it seems that the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean are in a stronger position than ever before. Most importantly, the people of the region have recognised the necessity of unity in the face of a common oppressor; the imperialist powers that seek to divide and rule them. Ever since the penning of the Monroe Doctrine, written by Secretary of State John Quincy Adams in 1823, the United States have viewed Latin America as their ‘backyard’, and acted accordingly.
But ‘America’s Backyard’ has become independent of the house. Of course, it is perfectly reasonable for a Caribbean island to not want an English head of state, but then again, it is perfectly reasonable for an island just off the coast of Argentina to not be an English colony. The fact is, these points are unreasonable where you are trapped in the mind-set of an Empire upon which the sun never sets. The sun has set, and it set a long time ago.
Once again, it seems that countries of the so-called “third world” are paving the way towards a progressive future, whilst England lags behind with an out-of-date, feudal, monarchy-based rule. A representative democracy in which the House of Lords are elected by no-one, and hold the power, second only to the Queen, to veto or change any law being passed. I’m sure none of these factors will stop British politicians lecturing other countries about “democracy”, “legitimacy” or how to run their internal affairs, whether it is Iran, Venezuela, Syria or, indeed, Jamaica.
CELAC held its first conference in Caracas on December 2-3rd 2011, exactly 188 years after the Monroe Doctrine was committed to paper. The coalition has given countries like Jamaica an extra impetus to demand the total freedom they are long overdue, and the new sense of regional solidarity will certainly pose a problem for those who spent so long salivating over the resources of the “banana republics” and sugar plantations. Latin America and the Caribbean have chosen freedom, and real independence. And a head of state that doesn’t live in Buckingham Palace.