Source: Jamaica Gleaner, Kingston, Jamaica
Published May 22, 2007
Last week, a former Cabinet minister mentioned that the Governor-General of Jamaica, who is the representative of the Queen of the United Kingdom, has to get a visa in order to visit England. This is happening as Jamaica marks the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in the British colonies. At least when we were under slavery, the governor, the representative of the British Crown in Jamaica, could travel to England without a visa.
In addition, the British visa is more expensive that a United States visa. Is it because Jamaica to London is further than Jamaica to California? Four years ago, as part of a delegation, courtesy of the U.K. Evangelical Association, I met with the persons responsible for implementing the visa regime at the Home Office. At this cordial meeting, I told them that the system as implemented was a moneymaking exercise. It is a great source of revenue.
The day Jamaicans were required to obtain a visa to travel to the U.K. should have been the day we abolished the monarchy. The day when a Jamaican appellant is initially denied a visa to appear before the Privy Council should be the day we resolve to remove the Privy Council.
That in the bicentennial of the abolition of the slave trade we are still having the British Queen as Head of State means that, symbolically, Britain still rules Jamaica politically. How does one explain to a child, in a so-called independent Jamaica, that the British Queen is Jamaica's Head of State? How does one tell a child that he or she can never aspire to be the head of state of his or her own country because that position is reserved only for the British?
That the Privy Council is Jamaica's highest court means that judicially Britain still rules Jamaica. In addition, the Privy Council's ruling telling Jamaica the only way it can implement a Caribbean Court of Appeal means that Britain rules us legislatively.
It is therefore sad that in this 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in the British colonies, there is no movement to rid the country of the vestiges of slavery. This will not come from Britain because the British politicians still have a colonial mentality. Britain still has colonies, such as Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Saint Helena, Falkland Islands (Argentina wants it), Gibraltar (Spain wants it) and Turks and Caicos Islands, etc.
It is sad that in the recent Budget debate, I did not hear one speaker mention the abolition of the British monarchy or the Privy Council. The Most Honourable P.J. Patterson made two timid steps towards self-determination by reintroducing the celebration of Emancipation Day and making our political servants swear to the people of Jamaica instead of to the British Queen.
But compared to what other politicians have requested or done since 1962, he was a bold man and most conscious of all politicians.
It is sad that no church synod or assembly in this significant year, to the best of my knowledge, has called for the replacing of the British monarch.
And only the Anglican Church, three years ago, called upon the nation to establish a Caribbean Court of Appeal.
Tomorrow, we celebrate the 175th anniversary of the execution of Sam Sharpe and it would be a fitting tribute to our National Hero if belatedly we abolish the British Crown as our Head of State and get rid of the Privy Council as our highest court, releasing the tentacles of British rule.
Rev. Devon Dick is pastor of Boulevard Baptist Church and author of 'Rebellion to Riot: the Church in Nation Building'.