Kingston, Jan. 10, 2012 (TSR) – Jamaica’s new prime minister has been sworn in – and immediately vowed to ditch the Queen as her country’s official Head of State.
Portia Simpson Miller said she would sever colonial-era links by abandoning the British monarch and adopting a republican form of government.
The Privy Council in London will also be replaced with Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice as its highest court of appeal in a bid to ‘end judicial surveillance from London’.
Taking the oath of office, she said: ‘I love the Queen; she is a beautiful lady.’ But then, speaking to the audience of 10,000 in Jamaican patois, she quipped: ‘But I think time come.’
Jamaica declared independence from Britain in 1962 but remains within the Commonwealth and has Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State.
The 66-year-old, who was sworn in yesterday for the second time, also pledged to ease Jamaica’s deep poverty, boost the sputtering economy and heal its political divisions.
Simpson Miller, whose one-year-long first stint in office ended in 2007, was sworn in on the grounds of the rambling, colonial-style mansion that is the official residence of the governor-general.
Pop star Shaggy later performed at the event at which vuvuzelas and horns, which had been blown passionately on the night of her victory, were banned.
Britain captured Jamaica from the Spanish, who used the island as a springboard for the conquest of the Americas, in 1655.
They imported African slaves to work on the sugar plantations – and ruthlessly put down any revolts on the island.
Some level of self-government was allowed, but in 1866 the Jamaican legislature renounced its powers – so the country became a crown colony.
It was partially restored in the 1880s. And then in the 1930s the Great Depression had a serious impact on the emergent middle class and the working class.
In 1938 sugar and dock workers around the island rose in revolt. It was suppressed but led to an organised labour movement and a competitive party system.
Jamaica gained a degree of local political control in the mid-1940s and political parties were set up. The first elections under universal adult suffrage were held in 1944.
Jamaica gained independence from Britain on August 6, 1962, remaining a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and with the British monarch as its official Head of State.
Her opposition faction won a dominating 42 seats in the 63-seat legislature, leaving the incumbent party with 21.
The plainspoken, charismatic Simpson Miller, who is the Caribbean island’s first female prime minister, takes over from Andrew Holness, a 39-year-old Labour lawmaker who was leader for just over two months.
In a 45-minute speech, she said: ‘After being tested and tempered, I stand before you today a stronger and better person prepared to be of service to my country and people.’
She vowed her government will ‘ease the burdens and the pressues of increasing poverty, joblessness and deteriorating standards of living’.
And she also said it would pursue a tight fiscal policy and forge strong partnerships with the private sector and international partners such as the International Monetary Fund.
She added: ‘My administration will work tirelessly that while we try to balance the books we balance people’s lives as well.’
Jamaica is a cash-strapped island with a punishing debt of roughly $18.6 billion, or 130 per cent of gross domestic product.
In the short- and medium-term, she said her administration will use ‘state resources’ to stimulate jobs through the Jamaica Emergency Employment Program, a centrepiece of her party’s campaign manifesto.
Her People’s National Party said it will try to renegotiate roughly 25 per cent of a troubled $400 million road programme financed by China in order to transfer some of the money to the emergency employment program as a way to kickstart the economy.
The prime minister also urged Jamaicans to create a more civil and respectful society and earnestly strive to make the best of themselves.
She said: ‘We will seek to make this country one of brothers and sisters, not of rivals and victims.’
After her speech, Simpson Miller elicited laughter from the audience by dragging a slightly embarrassed-looking Holness, now the leader of the opposition, to the podium and saying she was his ‘second mother’.