Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness on Wednesday told Britain’s Prince William and his wife Kate that his country wants to be “independent” and to address “unresolved” issues, a day after protesters called on the United Kingdom to pay reparations for slavery.
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, a move Jamaica has begun to study and other former British colonies may also pursue.
“There are issues here which as you would know are unresolved,” Prime Minister Holness said during a photo opportunity with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
“But Jamaica is as you would see a country that is very proud … and we’re moving on. And we intend … to fulfill our true ambition of being an independent, fully developed and prosperous country.”
Dozens of people gathered on Tuesday outside the British High Commission in Kingston, singing traditional Rastafarian songs and holding banners with the phrase “seh yuh sorry” – a local patois phrase that urged Britain to apologise.
Jamaican officials have said the government is studying the process of reforming the constitution to become a republic. Experts say the process could take years and would require a referendum.
Barbados was able to become a republic relatively quickly because its constitution only requires a decision by parliament.
Jamaica’s government last year said it will ask Britain for compensation for forcibly transporting an estimated 600,000 Africans to work on sugar cane and banana plantations that created fortunes for British slave holders.
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