Former British colonies Jamaica and Belize have both announced plans to replace King Charles III as their monarch with an elected head of state. Photo courtesy of The Royal Family.
May 5 (UPI) -- On the eve of the coronation of King Charles III Jamaica and Belize have become the latest former Caribbean colonies to signal that they will seek to formally sever ties with Britain and become fully-fledged republics.
An urgent referendum asking Jamaicans if they want an independent elected head of state could be held as early as next year, Jamaican minister for legal and constitutional affairs Marlene Malahoo Forte told Sky News in an interview Thursday.
She said the move was being driven by the monarchy as well as "racist and unjust" policies Jamaicans living in Britain have experienced.
"Jamaica is looking to write a new constitution... which will sever ties with the monarch as our head of state. A lot of Jamaicans had warm affection and identified with Queen Elizabeth II. When Jamaica became independent, Queen Elizabeth was already on the throne.
"But they do not identify with King Charles. He is as foreign as it gets to us. Plain and simple."
Malahoo Forte said becoming a republic was about Jamaica leaving behind a system of government connected to a "painful past of colonialism and the transatlantic slave trade."
Belize's Prime Minister, Johnny Briceno, also invoked slavery Thursday as the reason his country was "quite likely" to cut ties and become a republic, saying last week's refusal by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to apologize for Britain's role in slavery was giving impetus to the process.
A board-based constitutional commission established under Briceno's leadership is due to report on a range of possible reforms next year, including whether to become a republic. Briceno said a referendum would be held on its recommendations but has not denied suggestions that lawmakers could directly remove King Charles as head of state.
Briceno, who also won parliamentary backing for a resolution committing the government to seek reparatory justice from Britain for slavery, said bipartisan support meant it was "quite likely" Belize would quit the Commonwealth realm.
But the country is unlikely to sever ties completely, with Briceno saying Belize would likely stay in the 56-member-country Commonwealth, most of which are republics.
Belize and Jamaica are both independent but remain members of the Commonwealth realm, where the crown is the symbolic head of state.
Barbados replaced the late Queen Elizabeth II as head of state in 2021, leaving 14 nations where the King is the head of state and monarch.
Britain transported an estimated 2.3 million enslaved people from Africa to the British Caribbean with about 600,000 of those brought to Jamaica but only a few thousand to Belize, which is only slightly larger than New Jersey.
Former colonies in the Caribbean had already begun rethinking ties with the monarchy in the latter years of Elizabeth's reign as simmering resentment over historic racism and colonization shifted up a gear in popular and political agendas.
Prince William and Kate Middleton received a less than rapturous welcome when they toured the Caribbean in March 2022, with leaders telling them they were ready to move on from Britain and protests calling for reparations from Britain over its role in slave trade.