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After Barbados, will Jamaica become the next republic — and ditch the Queen as head of state?

 Queen Elizabeth II (right) greeting a Jamaican woman in Kingston during her visit to the Caribbean island in 2002
Screenshot The Royal Family
Queen Elizabeth II (right) greeting a Jamaican woman in Kingston during her visit to the Caribbean island in 2002.

Most Jamaicans have long favored removing the British monarch as their head of state, but taking that step has long been stuck in neutral. Will Barbados change that?

Barbados this week became the fourth British Commonwealth nation in the Americas to remove Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state and become a republic. Jamaica may be next — or not.

Jamaica is one of nine Caribbean countries that still retain the British monarch as their head of state — and it's the one that, according to polls and political buzz, seems likeliest to become a republic and ditch the Queen.

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But that move has long been stuck in neutral, with the government having yet to call a referendum on the issue even though Jamaican politicians often make it a campaign pledge.

Barbados’ decision — and the international popularity of the country's prime minister, Mia Mottley — may create more republican momentum in Jamaica, says Jamaican journalist Zahra Burton, a founder of the online investigative news site “18 Degrees North” in Kingston.

“I would call it an issue that is a desire, but it’s not a front-burner issue," Burton said.

"But Barbados has certainly amped it up in people's minds that 'if Barbados can do it, why can’t we, and why can’t we get our acts together?'...Because [becoming a republic] removes barriers to becoming all that we can be,” she said.

Many in the Jamaican diaspora in South Florida feel the same way. Marlon Hill is an attorney and community leader in Miami. He says breaking with the British monarchy is a necessary step to breaking with the Caribbean's colonial past, especially slavery.

“The question as to whether or not we can survive on our own, or be stable on our own, or even prosper on our own, I think is a troubling question to even ask," said Marlon Hill, an attorney and Jamaican-American community leader in Miami.

"The time has come for all Caribbean nations to really seriously consider charting their own path of self-determination for the next generation.”

Jamaicans who support keeping the Queen as their head of state point to factors such as help from British law enforcement in tackling the island’s violent crime rate — one of the highest in the hemisphere.

Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida. Contact Tim at tpadgett@wlrnnews.org
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