New prime minister says country will establish itself as a republic and break ties with former colonial power.
7 Jan 2012
Jamaica’s new prime minister has said that it is time for her country to cut ties with the British monarchy and declare itself an independent republic.
Speaking at her inaugural address on Friday, Portia Simpson Miller, said her government would “initiate the process of detachment from the monarchy”, establishing a republic with a president as head of state, and breaking off links with the former colonial power.
Jamaica is a constitutional parliamentary democracy and also a Commonwealth realm.
“I love the Queen. She’s a beautiful lady and apart from being a beautiful lady a wise lady and a wonderful lady. But I think time come,” Simpson Miller said.
Currently under Jamaica’s constitution, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state, and the prime minister is formally appointed by the governor-general, who represents the queen.
The announcement comes ahead of celebrations to mark 50 years of the country’s independence from the UK.
Simpson Miller, taking over for her second term as prime minister, won a landslide victory in an election last week that largely pivoted on public discontent with Jamaica’s ailing economy and massive debt.
The unemployment rate currently stands at about 13 per cent, up from under 10 per cent in 2007, when the centre-right Jamaica Labour Party, the previous ruling party, won power.
Its public debt stands at $18.6bn of gross domestic product.
“In the short and medium term, we will use all state resources to stimulate employment through the Jamaica Emergency Employment Program,” Simpson Miller said after taking the oath of office.
“We will do so in a transparent and non-partisan manner.”
Nearly half of all Jamaicans (43 per cent) live under the poverty line of $2.50 per day, according to an International Monetary Fund (IMF) report.
Reaching a new agreement with the IMF on Jamaica’s debt is one of the new government’s top priorities, Omar Davies, the official in charge of the transition, told reporters on Wednesday.
New talks with the global lender are set to begin on Monday, with Jamaica represented by Peter Phillips, the country’s new finance minister. Phillips has held several cabinet posts in previous administrations.
In the December 28 election, Simpson Miller’s People’s National Party secured 41 seats, two-thirds of the total, in the House of Representatives.
She succeeds Andrew Holness, 39, the youngest-ever prime minister of the country.