With Jamaica poised to begin celebrating 50 years of political independence from the United Kingdom next year, Prime Minister Bruce Golding has said he wants to mark the occasion by severing all colonial ties with the British monarchy. Golding is pictured in this file photo, celebrating his victory at the presidential elections in Kingston, Jamaica, Sep. 3, 2007.
Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of Jamaican independence from the United Kingdom, but a new island-wide poll suggests most residents of the tiny Caribbean nation believe they would be better off had the country remained a British colony.
The survey, conducted for the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper by Johnson Survey Research, found that 60 per cent of Jamaicans think the country would be better off today if it was still under British rule. A mere 17 per cent said they believed the country would be worse off. The remaining 23 per cent of respondents said they didn’t know.
The results speak to weak economic progress Jamaica has made in the last 50 years compared to neighbouring states and other developing nations, pollster Bill Johnson told the Toronto Star on Wednesday from Kingston.
“The point obviously is that people’s main concern here is the struggle to survive, finding food for the bellies of their children,” said Johnson, who has worked as pollster for 35 years.
“It seems to me most people don’t care if there’s a monarchy or dictatorship. They’re just trying to survive.”
The results were remarkably consistent across all age groups, with a majority of those old enough to remember independence and young people born long after saying the country would be better off as a British colony. Two-thirds of respondents 65 years of age or older said the country would be better off under British rule, while nearly that same proportion of respondents in the 18-34 age range agreed.
But Audrey Campbell, president of the Toronto-based Jamaican Canadian Association, questioned the entire premise of the poll, saying many Jamaicans can in no way compare life now to what it was like under British rule because they were born after independence.
“That’s like saying, ‘I kind of like the concept of slavery. Who needs self government? Who wants the right to dictate their future? I’d rather have someone come in and tell me based on what they think.’ Seriously?” said Campbell, who was born in Jamaica after independence and came to Canada as a young girl.
“It’s such a broad statement . . . there are different contexts for each age group. What is so appealing about British colonialism that we’d want it?”
The country of 2.8 million has struggled for decades with rising inflation, a falling dollar, crime and high unemployment.
With Jamaica poised to begin celebrating 50 years of political independence from the United Kingdom next year, Prime Minister Bruce Golding has said he wants to mark the occasion by severing all colonial ties with the British monarchy.
Like Canada, Jamaica has as its head of state Queen Elizabeth II, who is represented by a governor general. The country’s parliament is also based on the Westminster system of government, with a House of Representatives and a Senate.
“Transforming Jamaica from a monarchical to a republican state means no disrespect, and must not be interpreted this way,” Golding told his fellow parliamentarians in May.
“I have long believed that if I am to have a queen, it must be a Jamaican queen. I would not wish to see us celebrate 50 years of independence without completing that part of our ‘sovereignization,’ for want of a better word.”
Such a move would require a constitutional amendment and likely a referendum — a process Johnson says Jamaicans aren’t keen on.
His poll also found that 44 per cent of Jamaicans think the Westminster system should remain. Thirty-five per cent of respondents said the country should become a republic, while 21 per cent said they didn’t know if the current system should be replaced.
“The whole idea of becoming a republic and severing ties with England percolates and becomes an issue every now and again as politicians try to build up nationalist fever,” said Johnson. “I don’t think it really works, as this poll indicates.”
“People aren’t banking on the doors of Jamaica House demanding that system of government change. These esoteric things really don’t mean that much to the average person, unfortunately.”
The poll, conducted May 28-29 and June 4-5, surveyed 1,008 people, in person, across 84 communities. It is accurate to plus or minus four percentage points 19 times out of 20.