How is being a republic any better than what Jamaica is now?
by Ambassador Stephen Vasciannie
We hope that the missives in this space serve to encourage careful thought about issues that are important to our national enlightenment and discourage unproductive sycophants from holding sway over the unaware.
It has become fad for countries, especially former colonies, to want to become republics, suggesting that this is a way to put the colonial past behind and to take more responsibility for one’s own national development.
The dilemma we face is that declaring our country Jamaica a republic largely amounts to nothing more than mere symbolism, satisfying a cherished yearning but taking us no further than where we are.
For the generation of Jamaicans born just before Independence in 1962, there was a dream that was Jamaica. It was to be a land in which they would throw off the last vestiges of a cruel colonial past and begin the march towards a glorious future based on social and economic freedom, justice for the poor masses, and national peace centred on the mantra ‘Out of many one people’.
With the achievement of Independence, that generation pledged to promote black nationalism and pride and to lead Jamaica to “increase in beauty, fellowship and prosperity, and play her part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race”.
It was a beautiful dream, some might now say mirage.*
Jamaica becoming a republic may be no different.* –Editor
For all of that, 60 years after Independence, so much has gone bad that no wonder in 2017 a Bill Johnson poll found that a stupendous 45 per cent of Jamaicans felt we would have been better off being under British rule.
Ambassador Stephen Vasciannie, professor of international law at The University of the West Indies (UWI), was brutally honest in describing the realities of the Caribbean (read Jamaica) today, in his column in Sunday’s edition of this newspaper:
“…Extreme poverty, income mal-distribution, limited access to good education and health care, land hunger, unnecessarily high levels of malnutrition, the embarrassing popularity of skin bleaching, the high crime rate, alienation and disrespect for the rule of law, are all symptoms of underlying social and economic malaise that may be traced back convincingly to the transatlantic system of enslavement.”
If we are satisfied by a small feel-good moment, like Barbados, then let’s go republic. But let us be sure that is what is important to us in our current reality.
As for us, we believe that Jamaica is best served by taking a hard look at all our relationships, including those with countries that have been former colonisers, to take advantage of the benefits that it offers us to create a better life for our people.
For example, we would not get rid of the UK Privy Council, at least not until we can replace it with a justice that should not only be done, but seen to be done. No need to bury out heads in the sand. Our justice system is broken. With all the improvements that have come in recent times, our people do not believe in it. That is why we are not yet ready for the appellate jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Justice.
By way of another example, we would not get rid of the Rhodes Scholarship, named after Cecil Rhodes, a key figure behind African exploitation in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. Jamaica has benefited through National Hero Norman Manley, late UWI Vice-Chancellor Rex Nettleford, Dr Nigel Clarke, Dr Trevor Munroe, Mr Delroy Chuck, among the many others.
Let’s chose pragmatism over symbolism.
Do we even know why we should become a republic? Jamaica Observer
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