“The State of Constitutional Democracy in Jamaica and the Caribbean,” Distinguished Lecture with The Most Honorable Andrew Michael Holness, ON, MP, Prime Minister of Jamaica

 02/06/2020

The Most Honorable Andrew Holness, the ninth prime minister of Jamaica, will talk about his administration’s commitment to governance through the island’s parliamentary system of constitutional democracy. The presentation will discuss key struggles of the Jamaican people to establish constitutional government and strategies for making it responsive to the needs of the people in the contemporary period. His talk will shed light on Jamaica’s leadership in the quest to expand the social safety net as opposed to a welfare state. He will also explain Jamaica’s strategies for the improvement of its regulatory and ease of doing business environment, which speaks to greater efficiency and less corruption rather than more bureaucracy which has had a stifling effect on the economic growth of many Caribbean nations (see full abstract below).

Organized by Black Studies Associate Professor Daive Dunkley, and supported by a number of units on campus, including the Kinder Institute and College of Arts & Science, the talk will be held at 5pm on February 6 in Bush Auditorium (Cornell Hall). Admission is free, but tickets are required and can be found here.

Prime Minister Holness’ visit will also include a February 5 forum for Columbia Public School students on “Democracy, Youth Leadership, and the Future of Our World,” more information about which can be found here.

Abstract

Eric Williams was probably right when he observed, “one from ten leaves naught.” The statement was made in reference to Jamaica’s departure from the West Indies Federation in 1961. The federation was established in 1958 and was made up of ten British colonies. Among the principal objectives of the federation was the pursuit of a regional tariff system and sovereignty through the federal constitution.

In 1961, the Jamaican people voted in a referendum to leave the federation; this decisive development led to its unravelling as Jamaica was the largest member territory. With Jamaica’s withdrawal came the famous statement of Williams, premier of Trinidad and Tobago, in whose judgement of the region’s political history, the decision of Jamaica predicated his own withdrawal of Trinidad and Tobago from the federation. This solidified its collapse in January 1962. Jamaica went on to lead the move toward national independence later that year, becoming the first English-speaking territory to achieve its national independence. Another of its firsts was achieving universal adult suffrage in 1944, a development that set the stage for the dismantling of colonialism and the establishment of constitutional democracy in the English-speaking Caribbean.

Jamaica’s parliamentary system of constitutional democracy has existed since 1962. The constitution of the island is its supreme authority. Its highest executive authority is the British crown, but this is mostly ceremonial, and the Jamaican constitution determines any powers granted the crown. Constitutionalism has enabled Jamaicans to transition to postcolonial democracy and has withstood more than fifty years of independence.

Jamaica is considered a mature democracy; holding general and local elections which have withstood scrutiny and continue to meet the highest standards internationally. Such is the country’s system of democracy, that it has enabled Jamaica to transition from one political administration to another, seamlessly. Jamaica boasts a robust and independent judiciary and is a shining example of adherence to the principle of separation of powers. This, Jamaica considers to be critical in the maintenance of its strong democratic tradition and the protection and preservation of the fundamental rights and freedom of all Jamaicans. Also central to Jamaica’s strong democracy, is the level of freedom enjoyed by the press which ranks higher than even that of the United States.

The Most Honorable Andrew Holness, the ninth prime minister of Jamaica, will talk about his administration’s commitment to governance through the island’s parliamentary system of constitutional democracy. The presentation will discuss key struggles of the Jamaican people to establish constitutional government and strategies making it responsive to the needs of the people in the contemporary period. His talk will shed light on Jamaica’s leadership in the quest to expand the social safety net as opposed to a welfare state. He will also explain Jamaica’s strategies for the improvement of its regulatory and ease of doing business environment, which speaks to greater efficiency and less corruption rather than more bureaucracy which has had a stifling effect on the economic growth of many Caribbean nations.