KINGSTON, Sept 9 ― The ascension of King Charles to the British throne has stirred renewed calls from politicians for former colonies in the Caribbean to remove the monarch as their head of state.
Charles succeeds his mother, Queen Elizabeth, who ruled for 70 years and died yesterday afternoon.
The prime minister of Jamaica said the country would mourn Elizabeth, and his counterpart in Antigua and Barbuda ordered flags to half-mast until the day of her burial.
But in some quarters there are doubts about the role a distant monarch should play in the 21st century. Earlier this year, some Commonwealth leaders expressed unease at a summit in Kigali, Rwanda about the passage of leadership of the 54-nation club from Elizabeth to Charles.
And an eight-day tour in March by now heir-to-the-throne Prince William and his wife Kate to Belize, Jamaica and the Bahamas was marked by calls for reparation payments and an apology for slavery.
Barbados, one of a dozen Caribbean nations which are Commonwealth members, ditched the queen as head of state last year. Jamaica has signalled it may soon follow suit, though both remain members of the Commonwealth.
An August survey showed 56 per cent of Jamaicans favour removing the British monarch as the head of state.
Mikael Phillips, an opposition member of Jamaica's parliament, in 2020 filed a motion backing the removal.
“I am hoping as the prime minister had said in one of his expressions, that he would move faster when there is a new monarch in place,” Phillips said yesterday.
Former St. Lucia prime minister and now leader of the opposition Allen Chastanet told Reuters he backed what he said was a “general” movement toward republicanism in his country.
“I certainly at this point would support becoming a republic,” he said.
Activists in the region said Charles' ascension to the throne was also an opportunity to redouble calls for slavery reparations.
More than 10 million Africans were shackled into the Atlantic slave trade by European nations between the 15th and 19th centuries. Those who survived the brutal voyage were forced to labor on plantations in the Caribbean and the Americas.
Though Charles did not mention reparations in his speech at the Kigali conference, he expressed sorrow at the suffering caused by slavery.
“It is the end of an era of the monarchy maintaining the status quo of the legacies of colonialism,” said Professor Rosalea Hamilton, coordinator of Jamaica's Advocates Network, which protested the royal visit.
The Queen's grandchildren have the chance to lead the reparations conversation, Hamilton added.
“Whoever will take over the position should be asked to allow the royal family to pay African people reparations,” said David Denny, general secretary of the Caribbean Movement for Peace and Integration, from Barbados.
“We should all work towards removing the royal family as head of state of our nations,” he said. ― Reuters