Self-Respect Due Jamaica
Written By: Dr. Richard A. Byron-Cox
Last week I ended with a number of questions, the first of which ponders whether there’s need to remove the Queen as Head of State since the office of the Governor General is toothless with no real power in present-day Jamaica? Truth is, this monarchical office is an unnecessary colonial relic, tarnishing the image of a proud Jamaica. It evidences that de jure, Britain holds on to the highest office in this a decolonised land. So the question is: by what right or justification? Is it that white British is intrinsically better than Jamaican? For me this represents sovereignty without nobility for a native Jamaican can never in his/her own right be the Head of State.
Is this not an absurdity that the greatest respect for an office of state in Jamaica will constitutionally always belong to an alien? Doesn’t this embrace of the position of subjects to the very power that colonised and enslaved Jamaica, run counter the spirit and letter of the national pledge that Jamaica is only “under God”? Isn’t it true to say that the constitution implies that these proud Jamaicans willingly continue to sing, “Long to reign over us” oblivious to the fact that they need a visa, to see their own Queen? This is certainly a despicable state of affairs!!
Consequently, time is upon us that this anomaly and constitutional ambiguity is removed, furthering the obliteration of British imperialism in Jamaica. Again, I mean no disrespect whatsoever to Elizabeth II, but to say that the Head of State of Jamaica is a former colonial power, geopolitically physically distant, and totally removed in a cultural; social, racial – nobody in the royal family is black, Chinese, Indian, etc. – and, above all, a contemporary historical sense, (for true independence has no place for the vestiges of colonialism), tells me that we are still unsure as to the wellsprings of Jamaican nationhood and sovereignty.
To maintain this status quo is nought but the pursuit of the foolish notion that grace could be had from something absolutely disgraceful! Jamaica is no more some furlong outpost of British colonialism. It is the birthplace of Marcus Garvey and the missions to established universal Black Nationalism; pan Africanism and Rastafarianism. It is the home of Norman Washington Manley and the beginnings of Caribbean independence. It’s the birthplace of Bob Marley and Reggae music; and the motherland of Usain Bolt and a superpower in sprint. Respect due!!! Why then indulge in the continuation of this self-disrespect of having a foreign overlord or lady? Jamaica is not part of the Queen estates anymore.
So it’s indeed self-disrespecting when the present constitution effectively declares that no Jamaican is noble enough to hold the office of Head of State in their own right, in their own land. This reminds me of our cricket before the days of Frank Worrell, when we had to have a white captain. Those in control then were too ashamed of our race and history. Worse still, they had no sense of our destiny of ultimately being the greatest cricket team of all times. So we suffered the indignity of needing a white face “in front”. Could there be anything more psychologically damaging when we speak of independence and pride in the Caribbean identity, bearing in mind our past of slavery and racism?
If cricket did not break free, we would have never seen the emergence of Gary Sobers, Clive Lloyd and the great Vivian Richards as exceptional captains. Therefore, if it’s a case of “and a game shall lead them,” then so be it. For history, reason, logics and the future of Jamaicans’ belief in being able to shape their destiny, not living in the shadow of this relic of British imperialism, compel them to follow in the footsteps of our cricket. Jamaicans must have absolute faith in themselves! The Queen must be removed.
The second question was whether removing the Queen would negatively affect Jamaica’s relations with Britain? Well, this could only happen if the British so determine. Now, if it’s their intention to sour relations over this issue of Jamaican nobility (there is no evidence to show it is), then there is no greater justification for the expeditious dismissal of the Monarchy, as it would be clear that they are hell-bent on maintaining this ridiculous vagary of foreign master & local subject in a modern Jamaica.
No self-respecting people could accept such! As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, there are “some things so precious, some things so dear, some things so eternally true that they are worth dying for.” Human equality, dignity, and nobility are among these things. Their Right Excellencies Nanny of the Maroons, Sam Sharpe and Paul Bogle demonstrated this by examples that will shine through all ages. And, there will never come a day when Prime Minister Simpson Miller or any future Prime Minister of Jamaica can appoint the Monarch of Britain. Consequently, in honour and respectful remembrance of these heroes, Jamaican nobility must not be compromised one more day! So henceforth and forevermore, this country’s Head of State must not require British insignia.
We cannot be satisfied with a situation where Jamaican independence is merely shoulder high. Articles 27 and 68 literally place the British on the heads of Jamaicans. Can we effect true emancipation while embracing symbols of colonialism and worst still, accepting that the supreme office in Jamaica has little or nothing in common with the image and likeness of “Yard”? Many foreigners, while fully understanding the de facto situation, are vehement that constitutionally speaking, Jamaica is not independent!! While I respectfully disagree, there is a certain moral logic and merit in their argument.
Thirdly, I raised the issue about other countries (Canada, Australia) having the Queen as Head of State and whether Jamaica should simply continue in like fashion? In the first place, we cannot let others determine what is best for us. The ruling class in Canada and Australia were never subjected to the racism, slavery and barbaric dehumanisation the British practised in Jamaica. Cognisant of the fact that all of Jamaica’s national heroes shared the common mission of honour of, and love for this land, and or its people; what better way to truly honour them, than by performing the final rites on colonialism, reclaiming total Jamaica sovereignty?
How could we say that we have returned their Right Excellencies to their rightful places in Jamaican history when the heritage of their heirs, namely the right to be masters in their own land, is still not totally restored? Jamaica must seriously think of this and ensure we do not make a mockery of their Right Excellencies by proclaiming them heroes while pouring scorn on the fundamental ideals for which they lived and died. Jamaica must honour them correctly and excellently by restoring this land’s full sovereignty. To do otherwise is to short-change these national heroes, making the claim of love and respect for their sacrifice bogus!!
So it would be a travesty to reduce this issue to merely one of politics. This is a matter of sovereignty, dignity, nobility and belief in self and in a future not tainted by this bastard sovereignty. Mrs Simpson Miller cannot turn back now!!
Richard A. Byron-Cox is an international law specialist, international civil servant and author. He can be reached at email@example.com