Proclaiming Jamaican majesty
By Dr. Richard A. Byron-Cox
In this third and final piece I answer the last question posed in Part I, i.e.: why interfere with the present office of Head of State, as it has been in place for half a century causing no problems? And, the Monarchy itself is a centuries-old institution, solid and stable. Further, there is nothing the news media of the so-called first world love better than pouring scorn on the efforts of developing nations to administer their affairs. As far as they are concerned, corrupt and incompetent leaders and their entourage called government are the true and only source of the persistent poverty so evident all over the Third World. Without the “intelligent” oversight and instructions of this first world, these nations shall remain trapped in the quicksand of underdevelopment.
Well, while there is no doubt that Jamaica has faced and continues to face its fair share of socio-economic challenges, it has maintained a respectable level of law and order and has by and large been able to ensure the safety of its citizens without British intervention. These certainly are not due to the existence of this vainglory, ancient and functionally-useless piece of colonial timber in the architecture of the Jamaican state structure.
Moreover, Jamaica as a developing nation must of necessity be forward-looking, stating definitively its belief in its peoples’ capacity to make a meaningful Jamaican contribution to humanity. So while history must not be forgotten, Jamaicans must not, simply cannot live in the past, constitutionally or otherwise. It must rather seek to fulfil Daddy Manley’s solemn and clarion call for this generation to reconstruct the socio-economic life of Jamaica.
If we remove our blinders and face the facts head on, we would admit that apart from relishing this office of supremacy, Britain’s only real interest in the Caribbean is to ensure we remain a market, and that we “fall in” when they give a command so to do regardless of our own position on the issue at hand. In other words, we should remain loyal subjects. So Jamaica can expect and shall only receive the piecemeal assistance which more often than not serves its interest merely incidentally, for the primary purpose of this aid is to achieve the British’s not so hidden agenda. Is it any wonder then that they have used their so-called aid to try and force on the Caribbean their “morals” or lack thereof irrespective of how abhorrent these might be to us? Yes, it is the master to servant relationship all over again. But Jamaica must never forget as one calypsonian says, “In this day and age, remember we have passed that stage.”
Then again, the local historians have long been promoting a Jamaican interpretation of the nation’s history. And successive governments have been cultivating a sense of national pride and identity. This is clearly an unhealthy oxymoronic sort of behaviour of promoting a genuine Jamaican way while clinging to colonial symbols and putting them ahead of everything else at that. Caribbean old people say, “Oil and water don’t mix,” one must float to the top.
And talking of the Caribbean, it is true that one could never say with any measure of certainty where Jamaica really stands as regards the deepening of the regional integration process. Jamaica was however involved in the creation of the Caribbean Court Justice (CCJ), and the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME). These, if they ever get beyond Plato’s world of the idea of the thing, and become the thing itself, will cause fundamental changes not only in our intraregional affairs but in our relations with extra-regional counterparts including Britain.
The CCJ is to ultimately become the final court of appeal for all CARICOM member states. This inevitably means the removal of the colonial Privy Council and stopping the British “lording it” over us through their absentee dictatorship in the dispensation of justice in our nations. The CCJ is also fundamental to the CSME, the latter being designed to help reduce our insularity as we battle the unbridled and merciless greed (deceitfully and deceiving described as globalisation), of the rich nations. But for the CSME to play its intended role, the constitutions must march to the drum beat and the demands of the time. Retaining the Privy Council is clearly keeping us at a standstill as regards these two institutions/processes.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Prime Minister, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves is right when he says we have a duty to ennoble our Caribbean civilisation. So it begs the question: what is Caribbean about the Queen being Head of State of any nation in our region, and how does hanging on to her frock tail helps in this ennoblement? The ennobling of our society means upholding and magnifying the dignity of our people, showing our own majesty so to speak.
There is no way we can truly ennoble our people if we continue this loitering on the steps of British colonialism, to paraphrase the Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow, national hero of Barbados. It is my belief that had the good Lord given Barrow a little more time on this earth, Barbados would have long dispensed with the Queen as head of state. For Barrow was crystal clear, “Barbados is a friend to all and satellite of none.” There was no ambiguity in his mind that foreign overseers would not be tolerated in a sovereign Barbados. So too must be the case in a sovereign Jamaica.
As a boy, I was naïve enough to believe in Louise “Miss Lou” Bennett’s idea of Jamaica colonising England in reverse. Now a grown man, while I know that history cannot be turned upside down, I see the need for all former-colonised people to fully reclaim their nobility, Jamaica none the least. So while we cannot colonise England in reverse, we must complete the reversal of British colonisation in the entire Caribbean.
In closing, I wish to restate that I have a genuine sense of appreciation for Jamaica’s relations with Britain, even with the challenges they present. I also believe that if reorganised along more democratic lines, the Commonwealth could play a significant role in today’s international arena. However, the facts are that the Queen is not Jamaican, neither are Jamaicans British. Jamaica is on the verge of being 50, and it is time to “come out from under mammy” completely and permanently.
I agree that the marks on a cured leper are no proof that he is still sick. All the same, they lead to doubt and suspicion and are unsightly and really better gotten rid of. In the same way, while the present office of Governor General is not a representation of the intestinal parasitism that is colonialism; it is like the scars preventing the new skin of independence from glowing in all its radiant beauty. So at fifty, it’s more than time that Jamaica discards this colonial headpiece, and proudly proclaim its own majesty!!
Richard A. Byron-Cox is an international law specialist, an international civil servant and author. He can be reached at: richardbyroncox@ yahoo.co.uk