Sun | Jan 16, 2022

Gordon Robinson | Becoming a real republic

Published:Sunday | December 5, 2021 | 12:06 AMA MUS’ -
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.

So, Barbados is now a Republic.

Has it? My old friend, the Oxford English Dictionary, defines “Republic” as “a country that is governed by a president and politicians elected by the people and where there is no King or Queen”. Guyana, a trailblazer in political independence, has a semi-Republic but there’s no true (or even semi-) Republic among English-speaking countries in the Caribbean Sea.

With all due respect to Mia Mottley, a leader for whom I’ve the highest regard, all Barbados has done is substitute a black symbolic-only Queen for a white symbolic-only Queen. The black Queen can’t govern despite her grandiose title. Nothing else has changed after much pomp, ceremony, hoopla and a popular new National Hero.

Back home at the ranch, PNP’s Fitz Jackson, quick to grab at any illusion of political advantage, has already called on Government to, as Gleaner reports, “end Jamaica’s political and titular links to the British that date back to colonial slavery”. According to Fitz, a resolution tabled in Parliament in December 2020 by Opposition colleague, the impressive Mikael Phillips, to remove the Queen as Jamaica’s Head of State would achieve this.

DWL!

We need a motion in Parliament for THAT? I thought we all agreed that Queenie and we were long done? It looks like Fitz and Mikael have found a politically lazy way to attract positive media attention and try to burnish the image of a wholly irrelevant, self-destructive opposition party.

EVERYBODY knows we need to remove the Queen. The idea isn’t new, different or even politically controversial. What would be new, different and, perish forbid, THOUGHTFUL, is if somebody, preferably a MP, were to take a minute to work out a plan to “end Jamaica’s political and titular links to the British that date back to colonial slavery”, before leaping at reporters with facile, politically self-serving proposals.

Mikael’s motion appearing, as it does, to be an attempt to resurrect PNP, reminds me of stalwart listeners’ panic when TV threatened to kill radio.

You gave them all those old time stars

through wars of worlds, invaded by Mars.

You made ’em laugh, you made ’em cry.

You made us feel like we could fly

Mikael, read Romans 8:28. Again! Translated into plain English, it means “it’s all connected”. If PNP focuses on that fundamental principle it would do more than add to already disjointed PNP clamour for attention.

So don’t become some background noise;

a backdrop for the girls and boys

who just don’t know or just don’t care

and just complain when you’re not there.

You had your time; you had the power.

You’ve yet to have your finest hour

Radio….

Getting rid of Queenie is, like winning at the racetrack, a mus’. But why ONLY that? Will THAT “end Jamaica’s political links to the British that date back to colonial slavery”? Or just sever “titular links”? When we fire Queenie what do we do with Governor General? Is he mentioned in Mikael’s motion? Do we keep him? As what? A black King subbing for a white Queen?

Getting rid of Queenie is, like coconut milk in rice and peas, a mus’. Will THAT “end Jamaica’s political links to the British that date back to colonial slavery”? When we fire her do we keep the system of government her predecessors used to trick British people into believing they were getting Democracy? What kind of Queenless Jamaica does Fitz/Mikael want? What kind of Queenless Jamaica do WE want?

Getting rid of Queenie is, like shet pans to a rural farmer, a mus’. Will THAT “end Jamaica’s political links to the British that date back to colonial slavery”? Do we keep Queen’s Counsel? Do we continue that very British tradition of lawyers begging to be honoured in Queenie’s name? Will legal distinction be decided by performance or peer awards? Or will we continue with a politically endorsed elite structure of legal aristocracy? Will judges still be addressed as “My Lord” or “My Lady”?

All we hear is Radio ga ga

Radio goo goo

Radio ga ga

All we hear is Radio ga ga

Radio blah blah

Radio what’s new?

Radio, someone still loves you!

Now there’s a Queen we want to keep.

In 1970, guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor invited an awkward teenaged Zanzibar-born son of Indian immigrants, called Freddy Mercury, to be their lead vocalist. Nobody should be surprised that Freddy suggested a name change from Smile to Queen; became the band’s talismanic star; and is widely recognized as the best ever lead singer of a rock band.

Good luck following THOSE footsteps, Adam Lambert!

Between 1973 (first album release) and Freddy’s death (1991) Queen became synonymous with pomp rock ( We are the Champions) especially in live performances. Queen was always all about rock but Freddy’s creative juices and unlimited ambition drove the band into several directions, including recording Bohemian Rhapsody which, in my opinion, is their finest piece of musical craftsmanship.

In 1984, Radio Gaga, Freddy’s ode to radio and expressed unapologetic sadness at its apparent sidelining in favour of TV, may have seemed silly at first but became a worldwide hit. Incidentally, Queen has been Old BC’s baby SputNik’s favourite rock band since he was 10 years old!

DO THE RESEARCH

Removal of the Queen requires a referendum. Mikael Phillips called for that. It’s amazing how politicians enjoy spending our money on electoral frolic even in the midst of a raging pandemic that has decimated our economy. Government and Opposition displayed that jointly narcissitic proclivity from August to November 2020.

Now Mikael wants ANOTHER super-spreader just to replace a white Queen with a black King. Why? WHY hasn’t he researched thoroughly and included in his motion interconnected issues sure to arise AFTER Queenie is fired?

Loop News (December 10, 2020):

“Phillips’ resolution calls for appointment of a committee of ‘appropriate professionals to undertake a six-month public education exercise on the desirability of having a republican system of government instead of a monarchical one. Thereafter, the referendum should be held to approve the necessary constitutional changes...

Continuing, Phillips said:

‘... ‘And be it further resolved that Jamaica takes these immediate steps to finally repatriate this fundamental symbol of Jamaican sovereignty, the head of State, to our homeland ... prior to our celebration of 60 years as an independent nation’.”

Really? Seriously? Appoint a committee? At what cost? To educate WHO about WHAT? Just what kind of “republican system” does this people’s representative propose? What “necessary constitutional changes”? Simply “to finally repatriate this fundamental symbol of Jamaican sovereignty, the head of State, to our homeland, Jamaica” doesn’t justify an expensive six-month public education drive by an expensive “Committee”.

POLITICAL DISTRACTION

Like Mikael, Mia talks a good fight. But, while she makes grand speeches, Barbados, perennially the Caribbean’s education and economic exemplar, is rushing headlong down the identical economic rabbit hole into which Jamaica plunged for decades until Mikael’s father applied the brakes in 2012. In 2020, Barbados’ debt/GDP ratio amounted to approximately 157 per cent! So she needs a political distraction.

My unsolicited advice to Mikael Phillips is consult with your father. Take Fitz with you. Father knows best. This is what he said in Parliament on November 23:

“The version of Westminster parliamentary democracy that we inherited in 1962 has obv iously been outgrown. Rather than adjusting it willy-nilly along the way, let’s make the effort now to seriously and collectively examine it and examine our needs as we go forward, determined to make the next 60 years provide a different outcome than the last 60 years has done for our people.”

Can I get an “Amen”?

A faux Republic is just a political distraction, as is appointment of a 33-year-old “National Hero” who, according to actuarial science, has 40-50 years to embarrass appointers. So, naturally, follow-fashion Jamaica is again talking incessantly about appointing more national heroes. It’s a political distraction we cannot afford. Until we have a nation, we don’t need national heroes.

The urgent need is for a Comprehensive Constitutional Reform Commission with a majority of independent members (for example, from NGOs like JFJ, JAMP, NIA) and including no more than one representative from each registered political party. Jamaica also needs a commitment from ALL registered parties to accept the commission’s recommendations with expedition.

Folks, time come. We’ve been pussyfooting around the problem for 60 years while Jamaica has, at best, stagnated. Obviously something’s cockeyed somewhere which has NOTHING to do with Queen Elizabeth. Let’s begin a serious conversation about reconstructing a flawed nation built on the shifting sands of colonial brainwashing to make it a real republic independent of any vestige of colonial institution and purposed to benefit Jamaican citizens. THEN we can talk about heroes.

Peace and Love!

Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com