Prince Charles' succession stirs Caribbean calls to remove monarch as head of state

Prince Charles succeeds his mother, Queen Elizabeth, who ruled for 70 years and died Thursday afternoon. PHOTO: AFP

KINGSTON - The ascension of King Charles to the British throne has stirred renewed calls from politicians for former colonies in the Caribbean to remove the monarch as their head of state.

Prince Charles succeeds his mother, Queen Elizabeth, who ruled for 70 years and died Thursday afternoon.

The prime minister of Jamaica said the country would mourn Queen Elizabeth, and his counterpart in Antigua and Barbuda ordered flags raised at half-mast until the day of her burial.

But in some quarters, there are doubts about the role a distant monarch should play in the 21st century.

Tide against the monarchy

Earlier this year, some Commonwealth leaders expressed unease at a summit in Kigali, Rwanda, about the passage of leadership of the 54-nation club from Queen Elizabeth to Prince Charles. And an eight-day tour in March by now heir-to-the-throne Prince William and his wife Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, to Belize, Jamaica and the Bahamas was marked by calls for reparation payments and an apology for slavery.

Barbados, one of a dozen Caribbean nations that are Commonwealth members, ditched the Queen as head of state last year. Jamaica has signalled it may soon follow suit, though both remain members of the Commonwealth.

An August survey showed 56 per cent of Jamaicans favour removing the British monarch as the head of state.

Remote video URL

Ms Mikael Phillips, an opposition member of Jamaica's Parliament, in 2020 filed a motion backing the removal.

"I am hoping, as the prime minister had said in one of his expressions, that he would move faster when there is a new monarch in place," Ms Phillips said Thursday.

Former St Lucia prime minister and now leader of the opposition Allen Chastanet told Reuters he backed what he said was a "general" movement toward republicanism in his country.

"I certainly, at this point, would support becoming a republic," he said.

A reckoning

Activists in the region said Prince Charles' ascension to the throne was also an opportunity to redouble calls for slavery reparations.

More than 10 million Africans were shackled into the Atlantic slave trade by European nations between the 15th and 19th centuries. Those who survived the brutal voyage were forced to labour on plantations in the Caribbean and the Americas.

Though Prince Charles did not mention reparations in his speech at the Kigali conference, he expressed sorrow at the suffering caused by slavery.

"It is the end of an era of the monarchy maintaining the status quo of the legacies of colonialism," said Professor Rosalea Hamilton, coordinator of Jamaica's Advocates Network, which protested the royal visit.

The Queen's grandchildren have the chance to lead the reparations conversation, Prof Hamilton added.

"Whoever will take over the position should be asked to allow the royal family to pay African people reparations," said Mr David Denny, general-secretary of the Caribbean Movement for Peace and Integration, from Barbados.

"We should all work towards removing the royal family as head of state of our nations," he said. REUTERS

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.