Jamaica is “moving on” and intends to become an “independent, developed and prosperous” republic, the country’s prime minister has told the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, amid protests calling for the United Kingdom to pay reparations for slavery.
In an official meeting with the royals on Wednesday, Jamaica’s prime minister, Andrew Holness, told them the country was grappling with “unresolved” issues
The Cambridges arrived in the Caribbean nation on Tuesday to calls from some quarters for the country to drop the Queen as head of state and become a republic.
Meanwhile, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the British High Commission in the Jamaican capital Kingston on Tuesday urging the monarchy to pay reparations for its role in the Transatlantic slave trade.
Mr Holness told William and Kate the Jamaican people had a right to be “expressive” and that the nation intended to become “independent”.
“We’re very, very happy to have you and we hope you’ve received a warm welcome from the people,” he said during a photo opportunity with the Duke and Duchess at his residence in Kingston.
“Jamaica is a very free and liberal country and the people are very expressive —and I’m certain that you would have seen the spectrum of expressions yesterday,” he said, partly referring to the protest in the country’s capital.
“There are issues here, which as you know, are unresolved, but your presence gives us an opportunity for those issues to be placed in context, to be out front and center and to be addressed as best we can.
“But Jamaica is, as you would see, is a country that is proud of its history and very proud of what we have achieved. And we’re moving on and we intend to… fulfill our true ambitions and destiny to become an independent, developed and prosperous country.”
Mr Holness later tweeted a statement, reiterating that his comments outlined plans to move towards removing the Queen as head of state.
“I expressed to the Duke, that in this regard, it is inevitable that we will move towards becoming a republic in fulfillment of the will of the people of Jamaica,” the statement said.
The royal couple arrived in Jamaica on Tuesday as part of a week-long tour of former British Caribbean colonies that coincides with Queen Elizabeth’s 70 years on the throne, but have faced public questioning of the British Empire’s legacy.
Their trip comes after Barbados became a republic nearly four months ago by removing the queen as the sovereign head of state and after The Independent revealed that the nation has already begun the process of removing the Queen as head of state.
The British monarch is head of state in 14 nations around the world (including Belize, Jamaica and the Bahamas) – but critics argue that the institution is of little benefit to anyone who isn’t royal.
“It is important as we turn 60 years old as an independent nation that we stand as ‘adults’ on solid ethical, moral and human justice grounds,” Norah Blake, of Advocates Network, told The Independent, “to say to Britain, who was once our ‘parent,’ that you have done wrong in enriching yourselves off of chattel slavery and colonialism.”