KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) -- Jamaica should rewrite its constitution and
renounce its allegiance to the British queen by 2001, Prime Minister P.J.
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
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
related to the experience of our people," Patterson said.
Jamaicans complain their constitution is legalistic and hard to interpret,
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is outdated.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.