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Still too early for decision on referendum, general election – Malahoo Forte

Published:Wednesday | March 1, 2023 | 12:11 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer
Legal and Constitutional Affairs Minister Marlene Malahoo Forte addresses lawmakers in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
Legal and Constitutional Affairs Minister Marlene Malahoo Forte addresses lawmakers in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

WESTERN BUREAU:

Minister of Legal and Constitutional Affairs Marlene Malahoo Forte says it is too early to say whether Jamaicans will be required to vote simultaneously in the planned referendum and the next general election.

According to Malahoo Forte, there are 13 pieces of legislation that must be amended, including a review of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, before Jamaica can ditch the current system of government and transition to a republic state.

“It is too early to provide an answer on whether the country will vote in a general election and vote on the referendum on the British monarch at the same time,” said Malahoo Forte. “We are taking advice, we are assessing the matter, and what I promise you is that I will give the nation a timely update on where we are.”

The next general election in Jamaica is constitutionally due in September 2025. It is widely hoped that Jamaicans will be given the chance to decide whether the country should retain the British monarch.

Reflecting on the results of the 1961 referendum, where Jamaicans were called on to choose whether the country should remain a member of the Federation of the West Indies or not, Malahoo Forte said that this time the decision could be negatively impacted by partisan politics.

“We are taking advice on it because the truth is, the matters on which the people are going to be called upon to vote, to make the change to the republic, we don’t want to risk them being overshadowed by narrow partisan issues,” said Malahoo Forte.

“And it is my hope that the parliamentary Opposition and the Government will go to the people united, and that the process of engagement and educating the people will enable them to make an informed decision,” added Malahoo Forte.

Sixty years ago, Jamaicans voted against the Norman Manley-led People’s National Party’s desire for the country to remain in the Federation of the West Indies. The position was strongly opposed by Sir Alexander Bustamante, the then leader of the Jamaica Labour Party.

In that referendum, the people in the then 45 constituencies, which formed the electorate, voted against remaining in the Federation.