New Jamaican PM vows to drop Queen as head of state


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The Independent US

Jamaica's new Prime Minister has vowed to abandon the Queen as head of state weeks after it was announced Prince Harry will make a Diamond Jubilee visit to the country.

Portia Simpson Miller's pledge came as she took the oath of office and she said her administration would adopt a republican form of government.

Harry is due to visit the Caribbean country sometime this year to mark the monarch's 60-year reign - one of many foreign tours being made by the Royal Family to celebrate the milestone.

It is not thought the proposed constitutional changes to Jamaica will disrupt the trip.

Making her inaugural address yesterday at the governor-general's official residence in the capital Kingston the Prime Minister said: "I love the Queen. She is a beautiful lady, and apart from being a beautiful lady, a wise lady and a wonderful lady," she then added in in Jamaican patois "But I think time come".

Jamaica celebrates its golden jubilee this year, having declared independence from Britain in 1962, but it has remained within the Commonwealth and still has the Queen as head of state.

The Prime Minister added: "This 50th anniversary year will be a time for reflection on the lessons of the past; and as we celebrate our achievements as an independent nation, we now need to complete the circle of Independence."

She added: "In this regard, we will therefore initiate the process of our detachment from the monarch to become a republic with our own indigenous president as head of state."

A Buckingham Palace spokesman said: "The issue of the Jamaican head of state is entirely a matter for the Jamaican government and people."

Harry will tour Jamaica in early March and he is almost certain to meet Mrs Simpson Miller at some point during his trip.

If the proposals by the new prime minister are formally put forward in the coming weeks the prince's visit could take on the air of both a celebration of, and a farewell to, the British monarchy's constitutional position in the country's life.

A St James's Palace spokesman said: "We are working closely with the Jamaican authorities on the itinerary for his trip in honour of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee."

In her wide-ranging address Mrs Simpson Miller pledged to ease Jamaica's deep poverty, tackle its economic problems and stated she would "end judicial surveillance from London".

The new leader said she would replace the judicial committee of the Privy Council as her country's final court of appeal in favour of the Caribbean Court of Justice.

Jamaica is one of 29 Commonwealth countries and crown dependencies which have the committee as their last judicial arbiter.

Mrs Simpson Miller, 66, scored a dramatic victory in last week's national elections to claim her second term in office.

She led her slightly left-leaning People's National Party to a 2-to-1 margin in parliament over the centre-right Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

The plainspoken, charismatic politician is Jamaica's first female prime minister, and beat the JLP's Andrew Holness who had only been prime minister for a few months.

He had called a snap general election to get a new mandate from voters after replacing Bruce Golding as party leader during the autumn.

A referendum will probably be needed if Mrs Simpson Miller's government wants to switch to the Caribbean Court of Justice as Jamaica's final court of appeal.

When a previous administration passed laws to make the same changes the judicial Committee of the Privy Council ruled in 2005 that the bills passed were unconstitutional and so void, and said a national vote was needed.

A spokesman for the UK's Supreme Court said: "The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council does not lobby or encourage sovereign independent countries to join or leave its jurisdiction.

"It is entirely a matter for the individual country concerned whether it wishes to continue to use the service that the UK's most senior judges provide to countries which use the Committee as their final court of appeal."