The Constitution of Jamaica states that 13 provisions need to be changed before the country can transition from the current constitutional monarchy to become a republic.
Minister of Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Marlene Malahoo Forte, made the disclosure over the weekend, while also sharing that a nation-wide referendum will also need to take place. The referendum would require Jamaicans to go to the polls to vote for or against the change to a republic.
“Sometime next year, if not, then early in the following [year], we will be going to a referendum. A lot of work [has to be done] before we get there, because we would have to design the ballot, let the people know the details of what is in the Bill and to let all of you have your say,” she shared.
Malahoo Forte was addressing the First National Meeting of the Junior Chamber International (JCI) Jamaica at the Montego Bay Community College in St. James on Saturday (February 25).
She then urged young people in particular to “put yourselves in a place to have your say in this change. So, if you have not registered to vote, please do so.”
The minister noted that the process of transitioning to a republic “is designed to be a slow one because when you introduce the Bill to make the amendments, the constitution says three months must pass between the introduction of the Bill and the commencement of the debate on the Bill.”
“It also says that three months must pass between the conclusion of the debate on the Bill and the vote on it [because] these provisions are specially protected, and it requires you to think and think again about the kind of changes you want to make,” she pointed out.
The next step in the Jamaica’s journey to a republic is to formally establish a Constitutional Reform Committee aimed at building consensus among both the Government and Opposition as well as the public. The consultative committee will be comprised of representatives from the Government and Opposition, the Attorney General, constitutional law experts, including persons from academia, and the private sector.
Leader of the Opposition Mark Golding had previously refused to name two members to the committee, stating he required more clarity from the Government on certain topics. But following discussions at the Vale Royal Talks on Sunday (February 19) Senator Donna Scott-Mottley and Anthony Hylton were named as representatives to the committee.
The JCI’s first national meeting was held from February 24 to 26 under the theme: ‘#REFOCUS- Driven by Purpose,’ and included presentations from chapter members across the country on the rebuilding, rebranding and refocusing of the organisation.
The 2023 National President for JCI Jamaica, Odell Marsh, said that part of the organisation’s objectives is to play a greater role in nation-building and with Jamaica at a critical state of its development, it is important that the body engages the Ministry of Legal and Constitutional Affairs.
“If we are properly informed of the process that the government is going to undertake (to become a republic], then we, in our spaces will be able to adequately play our role to advocate and advance that process and to say to young people, that you need to get on board,” he pointed out.
JCI Jamaica is a non-profit organisation comprised of young people, ages 18 to 40, who are engaged and committed to creating impact in their communities.
– Jamaica Information Service