Queen to visit in March 2002
Her Majesty, Queen ELIZABETH II, is to make her fifth visit to Jamaica in March 2002 as part of her Golden
Jubilee year celebrations. Her trip, however, may coincide with a time of
heightened election campaigning and violence. The trip will occur two
years after her son, Prince Charles’ visit of February 2000 and seven months
after the visit of the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and his wife.
“The Queen and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh will spend two days, from
the 5th to the 7th of March. This is part of a trip to some Commonwealth
countries including New Zealand and she hand-picked Jamaica because she is
fond of this country,” said Mags Fenner, public relations officer at the
British High Commission. Jamaica is the only developing country included
on the Jubilee tour. “She tends to come here on an average of 10 years and
her visits coincides with key events. In 1975, her visit coincided with the
Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting. Jamaica is one of the important
monarchical countries, being the largest of a number of developing
countries,” explained Merrick Needham, logistics and protocol consultant.
Monarchical countries’ acknowledge the Queen as the Head of State. Sixteen
countries of the 54 Commonwealth countries still do.
The planning of the trip which is said to involve, “enormous detail” is
being coordinated out of the Governor-General’s office. “Logistics have
not been worked out as yet so I can’t say yet where she will visit, but the
trip will be mainly restful rather than stressful. Her visit also
coincides with the celebration of Jamaica’s 40th year of Independence,” said
Geoffrey Madden, secretary to Governor-General Sir Howard Cooke. Though the
timing of the trip is celebratory, it also occurs when the political parties
have ‘begun campaigning for general elections, constitutionally due by
December 2002. Since the start, of the year there has been flare-ups of
politically incited violence in several parts of Kingston and St Andrew.
But observers say,’ a visit to Jamaica during that time would not place Her
Royal Majesty in harm’s way. “There is still a left-over aura of her
influence, her august presence might cool tempers. There is also still a
fascination with ‘white people’ and it seems that only the black and poor
get killed in Jamaica, so she would be quite safe, though I wouldn’t advise
that she visits the volatile area,” said Hartley Neita, communications
consultant and historian. Mr. Madden also stated, that “security is, as
always, an important element.” The Jamaica Defence Force and the Jamaica
Constabulary Force are involved in the planning to provide security,
logistic support as well as the ceremonial fanfare that usually accompanies
such a high-level visit.
But, while plans are being made to welcome Her Majesty, some Jamaicans,
particularly members of the Rastafarian community are indifferent. “As
Rastafarians our position never changes. The Queens represents the colonial
masters that oppressed black people for so many years. She is a part of
Babylon and Babylon will have to fall,” said Ras Sydney DaSilva, president
of the Rastafarian Centralisation Organisation (RCO).
This was the same attitude to Prince Charles’s February 2000 visit.
“Prince Charles. was’ seen in the paper with a red, gold and green tam
turned backward. To some that was just a gesture but that was an insult to
Rastafarianism. Neither he nor the Queen has done anything for the movement,
so her coming has nothing to do with me.” Ras DaSilva said coolly. The
cost of the trip has not yet been determined as the Governor-General’s
office is yet to present a proposal to the Ministry of Finance. But the
customary activity of beautifying the routes along which the Royal visitor
will be travelling, is expected. “We would, of course, try to show Jamaica
to its advantage….we don’t what route she will take but as is customary, we
will ‘prettify’ the area,” Mr. Madden said.