Sun | Jan 16, 2022

Jamaica should have a directly elected president

Published:Monday | December 6, 2021 | 12:05 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

I concur with former Prime Minister P. J. Patterson that it would be a truly historic landmark if Jamaica becomes a republic celebrating the 60th anniversary of our Independence, while simultaneously inaugurating a Jamaican head of state would be extraordinary.

But that is as far as our agreement goes.

In his joint letter to Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Opposition Leader Mark Golding, Mr Patterson reminded them that “It has been fully accepted by our parties that the new head of state would be ceremonial in function … .”

But I believe this should not be the case if and when we are to rid ourselves of our colonial masters. We should not simply replace the British queen with a Jamaican queen, as former Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller had suggested.

Jamaicans, especially young professionals, have grown tired of the ceremonial and mundane. We have grown tired of the few who constantly choose for themselves and not for the majority. Tired of politicians who are afraid to take bold, innovative and necessary steps to advance Jamaica’s growth and prosperity.

SUGGESTIONS

In my opinion, a Jamaican republic should have:

1. A president who is the head of state and head of government – an executive president similar to the Cooperative Republic of Guyana or the United States of America. Not a ceremonial president like Barbados or Trinidad and Tobago. A president elected through a popular vote serving a five-year term renewable only once.

2. A vice-president who sits as the president of the Senate with elected members – not selected and who represents the will of the people who elected them. Two senators from each parish for a total of 30 – accounting for when Portmore becomes Jamaica’s 15th parish.

3. Ministers of government who are focused on the task of effectively running ministries and not having to simultaneously run a constituency, and sit in Parliament to review, create and pass laws. These ministers would form the Cabinet, chosen by the president and ratified by a joint sitting of Parliament.

I know that many of our current parliamentarians will be in strong opposition to this alternative suggestion, especially the third point. However, I urge the prime minister to consider this option when he begins the process of constitutional reform in January 2022.

I would like to call on all Jamaicans who support these three points to write to their current member of parliament and the Office of the Prime Minister for an elected president in a popular vote to be on the referendum and not simply for a two-thirds majority of both Houses.

MARIO THOMAS