William and Kate's Jamaica Tour Should Not Be 'Celebrated'—Lawmaker

Prince William and Kate Middleton's upcoming visit to Jamaica as part of a wider tour of the Caribbean should not be "celebrated", a member of the Jamaican parliament has told Newsweek.

Fitz Jackson, MP for the St Catherine Southern district of Jamaica, told Newsweek that though he has "no difficulty" with Jamaica being visited by members of the royal family, any attempt by the government to officially celebrate the relationship between Jamaica and the British monarchy is "not a pleasant one".

The comments come as the royal couple undertake a week-long series of visits to Belize, Jamaica and the Bahamas. The tour has already sparked controversy with protests against the visit, seen as a colonial gesture, being staged by Belizean locals leading to an early engagement being canceled.

Though the couple were generally welcomed on the first stop of the tour in Belize, the visit began with a canceled engagement to a local cocoa producer amid anti-colonial protests from locals who told the Daily Mail: "We don't want them to land on our land."

William and Kate arrive in Belize
Prince William and Kate Middleton arrived in Belize to start their Caribbean tour amid a colonialism row which saw one of their earliest engagements cancelled. March 19, 2022. Karwai Tang/WireImage

As the tour moves into its second phase with a visit to Jamaica, discussions around whether the people of the island want the British royals involved with the running of their country are set to continue.

Jackson, who has spoken in support of Jamaica's growing move towards forming a republic, said that the relationship between Jamaica, Jamaicans and the monarchy is not one which should be officially celebrated. He explained:

"For many centuries the relationship of Jamaica and the monarchy has not been a pleasant one. It was born out of slavery, it is born out of colonialism - neither of the two was about the wellbeing of the Jamaican people.

"When it's during slavery it's about exploiting the labors of Jamaicans for the benefit of plantation owners in the U.K. During the colonial period it is all arresting the affairs of the people of Jamaica for the benefit of the people of the United Kingdom. It was never about advancing the interests of the Jamaican people and that's a matter of fact."

Jackson, a member of the opposition People's National Party, believes the majority of Jamaicans share his views about the official visit that William and Kate are making to the island from March 22-24.

He said "The majority of Jamaicans have no real relationship with the monarchy— there's a tiny minority...My position in regards to the monarchy and our constitutional legal arrangements—I believe that should have long come to an end. Anything that celebrates the continuation of that is not something I embrace because it should have ended a long time ago."

These views seem to be widely shared on the island. At the time of the 2020 general election, a poll conducted by the Jamaican Observer found that 55% of the islanders thought that "the Queen should not continue to be head of state".

Queen Elizabeth II Jamaica
Queen Elizabeth II is head of state in 15 countries. Jamaica has a growing republican movement which wants to see the Queen removed as the head of state following Barbados' lead in 2021. Photographed on an official visit to Jamaica, February 20, 2002. Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

Support for Jamaica becoming a republic has increased over the last two decades with debates on the subject fast becoming a regular feature of Jamaican politics. As recently as 2012 then-Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller supported a move towards a Jamaican republic, later stating that relieving the British monarch as head of state would "complete the circle of Independence".

A recent spotlight has been shone on the issue by the island's Caribbean neighbor Barbados eliminating Elizabeth II's position of head of state in November 2021. Barbados' decision to remove the foreign monarch marked the first country to do so since the Indian ocean island of Mauritius became a republic in 1992.

While the Queen delegates the day-to-day operations of head of state to a governor general, she remains Queen of Jamaica—a title she inherited from her father upon his death in 1952. As of 2022, Elizabeth II is also head of state in 14 other countries, eight of them in the Caribbean.

William and Kate's tour is planned as part of a series undertaken by various members of the royal family to mark the Queen's Platinum Jubilee. The decision though to send the future King and Queen to Belize and Jamaica, two nations displaying a strained relationship with the monarchy, is an interesting one considering that the Queen's youngest son, Prince Edward and his wife Sophie, are to visit the neighboring islands of Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines only next month.

Jackson raised the point of Jamaica following Barbados into becoming a republic in parliament as recently as December 2021. In response to his reasoning, the Acting House Leader, Culture Minister Olivia Grange stated that the matter was "important and Parliament will be looking at this motion, or the subject itself, at the earliest possible time."

For more royal news and commentary check out Newsweek's The Royal Report podcast:

The subject is still being debated but there is an opinion among some that the simple removal of the Queen as head of state and declaring of Jamaica as a republic will not lead to any operational change to the way the government of the island operates.

In an editorial for Jamaican news outlet The Gleaner this month, sociologist Peter Espeut reflected that: "the monarchical form of government is woven so finely into the fabric of the Jamaican polity that a simple change of title (from governor general to president) while leaving the monarchical mindset in place will make little difference."

There does seem to be one royal issue within the debated republican movement that both sides are happy to keep—that is Jamaica remaining a functioning part of the Commonwealth. As Jackson told Newsweek "We are a part of the Commonwealth. I have no difficulty with us remaining in the Commonwealth without being a part of the monarchy. As other countries who have become republics have remained a part of the Commonwealth."

As William, a potential future head of the Commonwealth, and Kate make the next stop of their Caribbean tour in Jamaica, they visit an island where its relationship with the institution that they are representing hangs in the all important balance.

Prince William Kate Middleton Belize
Prince William and Kate Middleton's tour of the Caribbean marks an important moment in the relationship between to monarchy and it's former colonies. Jamaican MP Fitz Jackson told Newsweek any official celebration of the history between his country and the monarchy is "not a pleasant one". Photographed at the Che'il Mayan Chocolate Factory in Belize, March 20, 2022. Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage