Ex-colony wants full independence from British crown
After 60 years of political independence, it is “inevitable” that Jamaica will “move on” from its past as a British colony and become a republic, Prime Minister Andrew Holness told Prince William and his wife Kate on Wednesday. London rejected calls to apologize and pay reparations for its history of profiting from slavery in its Caribbean colony.
“There are issues here that remain unresolved. But your presence gives an opportunity for those issues to be placed in context, put front and center and be addressed as best as we can,” the prime minister said standing alongside William.
Jamaica is “a country that is very proud of our history, very proud of what we have achieved. And we are moving on. We intend to attain … our true ambition of being an independent, developed and prosperous country,” he added.
(1/4) I was delighted to welcome the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate Middleton to Jamaica and to the Office of the Prime Minister for a courtesy call this morning. pic.twitter.com/vAq7bznWet— Andrew Holness (@AndrewHolnessJM) March 23, 2022
Holness’ words seemed to echo the speech delivered by then-Prime Minister David Cameron during his visit to Jamaica in 2015. At the time, he made it clear that London intended to turn the page on the issue of slavery without issuing formal apologies or paying reparations.
“That the Caribbean has emerged from the long shadow [of slavery] cast is testament to the resilience and spirit of its people,” he told the Jamaican Parliament.
“I acknowledge that these wounds run very deep indeed. But I do hope that, as friends who have gone through so much together since those darkest of times, we can move on from this painful legacy and continue to build for the future,” Cameron added.
Jamaica was a British colony between 1655, when the island was captured from Spain, and 1962, when the British Parliament granted it independence. It remained part of the British Commonwealth.
An estimated 600,000 Africans were shipped to work on sugarcane, coffee, and banana plantations in Jamaica, amassing fortunes for British slave holders. Britain abolished the slave trade in 1807, but full emancipation did not come until 1838.
Becoming a republic would be a largely symbolic gesture for Jamaica. If enacted, the island will no longer consider Queen Elizabeth to be the formal head of state. Another former British Caribbean colony, Barbados, made this move in November. There were rumors ahead of the visit by the royal couple that Jamaica was exploring the same path.
Prince William, the second-in-line to the British throne, refrained from addressing the promised breakup in his speech at the governor general’s residence. He acknowledged that slavery was an appalling atrocity staining Britain’s history, but stopped short of apologizing.
During the visit, dozens of protesters took to the streets holding banners with the phrase “seh yuh sorry,” a phrase used by the locals to urge Britain to formally apologize for enslaving their ancestors.