An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Jamaica is reevaluating its relationship with the British monarchy


With the death of Queen Elizabeth II, Britons are getting used to life without the only monarch most have ever known, and so are members of the Commonwealth. It's a group of 56 nations connected, in part, by a history of British colonial rule. Lisa Hanna is a member of parliament in Jamaica. It's part of the Commonwealth, and it's also one of 14 nations that still recognize the British monarch as their head of state. I spoke with Lisa Hanna earlier today, and I asked her to describe the mood in Jamaica.

LISA HANNA: I think the mood leading up to, certainly after the queen's death was somewhat militant because of the monarchy. And Jamaicans have been, for some time now, very - I think resentful is a strong word but certainly want to be architects of their own destiny. And they have not seen how them having the queen as a head of state has really moved our economy and our social standing forward, as a matter of fact. Jamaicans don't get automatic visas to go to England, and there are still a lot of vestiges from the influence of slavery that Jamaicans still live. I think, you know, people are reserved and respectful. Someone has died. But certainly, there is very little reverence from the position of what she held.

SUMMERS: What do you think can be done immediately, or what would you like to see happen now?

HANNA: Well, the first thing that they can do is say sorry, a genuine sorry. You know? Saying that it was a bad period and it was a heinous period of history is not the same as saying, sorry, and we take responsibility for that. And as a result of that, here is what we are prepared to do. They must now align themselves, urgently align themselves to correct their historical wrongs and reset their political, economic and social systems for the future generations that are coming in the Caribbean, not only Jamaica.

And you saw it with now Princess Kate and Prince William came to the Caribbean, how they were met. People were saying, these signs and symbols of the monarchy - we no longer have the tolerance for the signs and symbols. We want to be heard because if you read the history, the United Kingdom achieved maximum wealth creation from the wealth extraction from Caribbean colonies. And even after slavery, reparations was not paid to slaves. It was paid to plantation owners. You can't, after years and hundreds of years of a system, expect that, all of a sudden, people - thousands of people can move forward that way if you still are an oppressive system over them. Antigua has now come out and said that they want their own head of state. Jamaica is moving to do it. Barbados has moved to do it. There are quite a few countries around the world that are saying, look. This hasn't helped us. We're moving in another direction.

SUMMERS: Earlier, you mentioned the tour of the Caribbean that the Prince and Princess of Wales took. And during that trip, Prince William expressed - and I'm quoting here - "profound sorrow" for what he called the appalling atrocity of slavery. What was your reaction upon hearing that?

HANNA: Listen. Flowery words and artful symbols not only do not placate us, but words without actions also offended us. So we need the Prince of Wales and King Charles and the new Prime Minister of Britain, Prime Minister Truss, to recognize, certainly, the historic exploitation and the consequences and now start making amends. We all heard what Prince William said, but it was not enough. He needed to go a step further to say, well, this is what we are going to do to make sure that we right those historical wrongs. And I think he has a unique opportunity to align our expectations based on what their actions will do for the future.

SUMMERS: Lisa Hanna is a member of Jamaica's parliament, thank you so much for speaking with us.

HANNA: Sure, no problem. Take care. Be safe. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.
Bridget Kelley
Bridget Kelley is the Supervising Senior Editor of NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, All Things Considered.