KINGSTON: Jamaica is “moving on” and embracing its destiny as an independent country, its leader told Britain’s Prince William yesterday, later calling the Caribbean nation’s switch to a republican model “inevitable”.
Speaking at a press briefing, prime minister Andrew Holness said William’s three-day visit to the island, which has sparked protests over Britain’s colonial-era role in the slave trade and calls for reparations, offered a chance to address “unresolved” issues.
Hours later, the prince expressed “sorrow” to Jamaicans for Britain’s involvement in slavery at a state dinner in the capital Kingston.
“I want to express my profound sorrow. Slavery was abhorrent, and it should never have happened,” William said, calling the transatlantic slave trade an atrocity that “forever stains our history”.
Hundreds of thousands of African slaves were forcibly taken to Jamaica during the British colonial period and made to undertake backbreaking labour on the island’s massive plantations.
While the prince conveyed the “deep affection” his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II has for Jamaica and celebrated its diaspora’s contributions to Britain, Holness said the country’s move to a republican model was only a matter of time.
“It is inevitable that we will move towards becoming a republic in fulfillment of the will of the people of Jamaica and our ambitions of becoming an independent, developed and prosperous country,” Holness tweeted after the men met yesterday.
Jamaica is one of 15 countries of which Queen Elizabeth, who recently celebrated her 70th year on the throne, is head of state.
A Jamaican break from the monarchy would follow in the footsteps of fellow Caribbean island Barbados, which four months ago formally declared itself a republic at a November ceremony attended by William’s father, Prince Charles.
Tuesday’s arrival of William and wife Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, saw placard-bearing protesters gather outside the British High Commission demanding that the monarchy pay reparations and apologise for its role in the slave trade.
In 2015, then British prime minister David Cameron rejected calls for reparations ahead of a visit to Jamaica.