March 29, 1999
Jamaican prime minister: Renounce the queen

                  KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) -- Jamaica should rewrite its constitution and
                  renounce its allegiance to the British queen by 2001, Prime Minister P.J.
                  Patterson said.

                  Patterson said during a meeting of his People's National Party on Sunday
                  that he believes there is strong political support in the Caribbean country for
                  such a move.

                  "I believe we are all agreed -- every person in Jamaica who has spoken so
                  far has said the time has come when we must move from the monarchical
                  form of government to a republican form of government," he said.

                  Politicians in Jamaica, Barbados and other Caribbean countries have been
                  debating eliminating the Queen as the symbolic head of government and
                  removing other trappings of the British Empire.

                  In Jamaica, the movement has stalled because the country's three main
                  parties are divided on the role of the president in a government that would
                  replace the British-style hybrid of parliamentary democracy and monarchy.

                  On Sunday, Patterson said a new constitution should preserve some
                  symbols of the country's history, but that they should emphasize Jamaican,
                  not British, heritage.

                  "No country can exist or survive without symbols and these symbols must be
                  related to the experience of our people," Patterson said.

                  Jamaicans complain their constitution is legalistic and hard to interpret, and
                  that it favors the government in conflicts between private citizens and the

                  Parliament has already agreed on many changes, such as the need for a bill
                  of rights, a "public defender" to handle complaints against the government,
                  and a law punishing violations of basic rights.

                  In early March, Patterson filed bills clarifying the definition of a Jamaican
                  citizen, toughening human rights enforcement and laying the framework for a
                  bill of rights. The parliament is expected to pass them during its next
                  legislative session, which begins Thursday.

                  The ruling People's National Party wants a strong president directly elected
                  by the people and a weaker parliament.

                  The opposition Jamaica Labor Party wants lawmakers to choose the
                  president, who would share powers with the prime minister.

                  The smaller National Democratic Movement says the parliamentary system
                  is outdated. It is advocating a U.S.-style constitution with rigid separation
                  between the branches of government and a strong system of checks and

                    Copyright 1999 The Associated Press.