Legal and Constitutional Affairs Minister, Hon. Marlene Malahoo Forte, said Jamaicans can be excited but should exercise patience as Jamaica moves to transition away from a constitutional monarchy to a republic.
She noted that the transition will take time as there are certain procedures to follow in undertaking the constitutional reform process.
Minister Malahoo Forte, who was addressing the post-Cabinet press briefing on Wednesday (April 6), advised that the change could not be made in time for the country’s 60th anniversary of Independence in August.
“The Constitution sets out its own process for amendment and we cannot deviate from it. The commitment of Prime Minister [the Most Hon. Andrew Holness] to transition Jamaica away from a constitutional monarchy is one that will be kept, but I know persons are wondering whether we will have it done in time for the celebration of Jamaica 60. Unfortunately, the procedures set out in the Constitution will not permit that timing to be met,” she said.
The Minister explained that there are deeply entrenched reform issues that have to be addressed, noting that the process has to be carefully sequenced. A two-thirds majority vote in each house is required plus a referendum, where the electorate will also have their vote on the issue.
She further noted that there is a requirement of a three-month period between the date when the Bill is tabled in the House of Representatives and the commencement of the debate.
“Even if the Bill were to be tabled, you would have May, June, July before any debate could commence because that is what the Constitution says. After the debate is concluded, you would also need another three months before the Bill can be passed in the House,” she said.
“If you take away nothing else, it’s to understand that we have to go through a constitutional process to achieve the goal of moving Jamaica from a constitutional monarchy to a republic,” she added.
Ms. Malahoo Forte said, personally, she is excited about Jamaica’s transition to a republic, noting that there has been much talk about this kind of constitutional reform “[but] Prime Minister Holness has taken the step that no other Prime Minister before him has taken.
“I have been doing the work personally and I am very excited, because…for my time as Attorney-General and now in this role, I have learnt so much and I have been very close to the issues of the people and I’ll tell you that there is much to be excited about,” she said.
The Minister advised that she would speak further on the matter on May 11 when she is scheduled to make her contribution to the Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives.