JIS News

Story Highlights

  • It is two days before Emancipation Day and eight days until Independence, and Jamaican flags are adorning cars, homes and business places in a show of patriotism and celebration of nationhood.
  • Other national emblems and symbols are often used as part of the various ceremonies and festivities held during the annual ‘Emancipendence’ period.
  • While this practice is encouraged, citizens are being reminded to adhere to the guidelines and rules governing the appropriate use of the country’s seven national symbols and emblems.

It is two days before Emancipation Day and eight days until Independence, and Jamaican flags are adorning cars, homes and business places in a show of patriotism and celebration of nationhood.

Other national emblems and symbols are often used as part of the various ceremonies and festivities held during the annual ‘Emancipendence’ period.

While this practice is encouraged, citizens are being reminded to adhere to the guidelines and rules governing the appropriate use of the country’s seven national symbols and emblems.

The three emblems are: the National Flag, the Coat of Arms of Jamaica (which is more correctly known as the State Arms of Jamaica), and the National Anthem. The four national symbols include the Ackee fruit; the Swallowtail Hummingbird (popularly referred to as the Doctor Bird); the Blue Mahoe tree; and the Lignum Vitae flower.

Communications Specialist in the National Security Policy Unit of the Cabinet Office, Gwyneth Davidson, advises that the emblems and symbols are a reminder of Jamaica’s national goals, values and history. In this regard, she says they must be treated with the level of respect in accordance with and in recognition of the nation’s sovereignty.

“It is through these emblems and symbols that we can respect our heritage and commit ourselves to continue the legacy of nation building and development,” she states.

She points out that over the years there has been inappropriate use, and even misuse, of the emblems and symbols. She notes that as such, the Office of the Prime Minister, which, under law, has the responsibility to protect these symbols is undertaking, with its partners, to have this corrected through increased public information.

As it regards the State Arms or Coat of Arms, Mrs. Davidson says members of the public should understand that aside from educational purposes, the emblem should not be used for commercial or personal reasons.

“It is used to identify official documents and signage of Ministries of Government, and Parliament and its commissions, and should not be used to identify Jamaica in any other way, including identifying Brand Jamaica,” she points out.

She advises that Ministry personnel must also seek permission from the Office of the Prime Minister before using the Coat of Arms of Jamaica.

Executive Director (Acting) and Legal Counsel of the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO), Lilyclaire Bellamy, adds that the State Arms should not be used in a casual manner, as it is the premier symbol of the nation.

“It should be treated with respect and should be saved for ceremonial and significant occasions,” she tells JIS News.

“We would prefer if you really didn’t use the State Arms on programmes, because if you think about it, most persons after they’re finished discard it. It gets trampled and it doesn’t get the respect that it deserves,” Ms. Bellamy explains.

She also advises that the Coat of Arms should not be imprinted on jackets or shirts for athletes or any other teams or groups representing Jamaica whether locally or internationally.

“I know we are very proud and patriotic and we like to display that we are Jamaicans, but there are other ways that we can do this that are appropriate and acceptable,” she advises.

Ms. Bellamy further advises that imprinting a photo or artwork of the other national emblems and symbols, including the flag or the flower of Jamaica on commercial products is restricted, and permission must be sought from the OPM.

“So, you need to send a letter to the Office of the Prime Minister indicating how you intend to use the symbol or the emblem and it is reviewed and permission is granted, if it is considered appropriate. If not, you will receive guidelines from the Office of the Prime Minister of ways that you can amend or adjust your product and then you will be given permission to use it,” she outlines.

Turning to Jamaica’s most popular emblem, the National Flag, Mrs. Davidson points out that the physical flag can be used by anyone, as long as the proper guidelines for use are followed.

Among the guidelines is that the Jamaican flag should never be allowed to touch the ground or floor. It also should not be flown or used only for decorative purposes on anything that is for temporary use and is likely to be discarded, except on state occasions.

Additionally, the flag should never be smaller than any other flag flown at the same time and should never be draped over vehicles, except on military, police and state occasions.

Ms. Bellamy informs that ensuring the correct colours of the flag is also a matter of importance. The colours of the Jamaican flag are black, green and gold. She points out that often flags with the incorrect shade of gold or green are imported into the island and are used during functions.

“Basically it is not representative of the flag of Jamaica. It’s a flag, but it’s not really the Jamaican flag. Technically speaking if it doesn’t have the correct colours, it really isn’t the Jamaican flag,” she reasons.

Ms. Bellamy informs that to further address the issue, a Joint Committee consisting of representatives from a number of ministries and agencies of the Government, is currently working on a proposal for the formulation of guidelines relating to the management and regulations of the national emblems and symbols.

“We’re going to be seeking Cabinet approval for that document and subject to that approval we would have something that is clearly in the law, which we could share with the countries that are mass producing our national symbols and emblems,” she notes. “As such, they would be properly informed of the correct colours and symbols to use.”

For additional guidelines on the proper use of the Jamaican flag persons may visit: https://jis.gov.jm/symbols/jamaica-national-flag/

In the meantime, Mrs. Davidson notes that there are also guidelines on how the national anthem should be used at events, and how persons should respond when they hear it being sung or played.

Among the guidelines is that all persons should stand at attention (i.e., heels together) at the playing of the National Anthem and men should remove their hats. The first verse of the National Anthem should be played or sung as specifically designated on the arrival of the Governor-General or the Prime Minister.

Additionally, singing of the National Anthem should form part of the ceremony of raising and lowering of the flag at the beginning and end of term in schools and at Independence celebrations.

As it regards Jamaica’s four national symbols, the general guideline for these living things is to treat them with respect, and to also depict them respectfully in artistic creations. This should also extend to commercial activities such as how they are presented on products and in advertising.

If in doubt, the best action is to seek advice from The Protocol Department, Office of the Prime Minister. Telephone: 927- 4101, 927-9941-3. Email: chan-prot@opm.gov.jm.