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Mervelee Ratty Nembhard
July 21, 2012 ·
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Haffi Beef up pon JA HiSTORY Ms Cheddy
Professional Jamaicans for Jamaica, Inc. is with Kadia Francis and
July 21, 2012 ·
JAMAICA’S JOURNEY TO INDEPENDENCE
(Source: The National Library of Jamaica; 12 East Street, Kingston, Jamaica)
Jamaica became a British colony in 1655 and until the mid 1830s the Negro population was enslaved. Yet when slavery ended blacks were still faced with labour exploitation and racial domination. Many of the ex-slaves became peasants but suffered hardships from highly priced goods, heavy taxation and a justice system which worked against peasants. The government remained oblivious to the growing discontent of the citizens, and riots and resistances took place, culminating in the Morant Bay Rebellion of 1865, as these ex-slaves fought for equity and a better standard of living.
In 1866, the Old Representative form of Government was replaced with the Crown Colony Government which comprised the Legislative Council, a Governor, six officials and 3 non-official members. Legislations concerning land were implemented and there was an improvement in the education system. Still, the majority of Jamaicans reaped little benefits from Crown Colony government. Agitation for change in the system of government began immediately after 1866 but change was achieved very slowly.
The right to vote was restricted to every sane adult who owned, had paid taxes, or paid an annual rent or paid direct taxes to the amount of £3 a year. In 1938, Jamaica had a unicameral legislature (one chamber legislature) consisting of a small number of elected members- one from each parish- and a larger number of nominated and official members. Because Jamaica was a colony, many top positions in government were reserved for British people. During the 1930s the number of blacks in the council and civil service were rising. Riots broke out in 1938 as they demanded better working conditions and representation for workers. The agitation/disturbances of the 1930s led to the granting of Universal Adult Suffrage in 1944 which meant that every Jamaica over 21 years would be able to vote for the government of his or her choice, whether or not he/she owned property.
THE STRUGGLE FOR INDEPENDENCE
A new constitution was granted in 1944. It provided for an elected and nominated executive council responsible for determining the country’s policy. The executive council was chosen from the party that won the majority in the Legislative Council. Members of the executive council were responsible for the different government departments but power rested with the Governor.
In 1953 changes were again made to the constitution which provided for a Chief Minister and seven other Ministers from the House of Representative Alexander Bustamante became the first Chief Minister. By 1957 self-government was achieved and the Executive Council was replaced by a Council of Ministers and the powers of the Governor reduced.
As the country’s constitution evolved Federation with the other Caribbean countries was encouraged. August 2, 1956 Britain passed an Act for the Federation of the West Indies which came into existence January 3, 1958. The Federation was a political institution with its own government, constitution, coat of Arms and flag. The Federation was being challenged though in countries such as Jamaica. On September 19, 1961, Jamaica held a referendum to decide whether to remain in the Federation. The majority voted ‘No’ and preparations began for Jamaica’s withdrawal.
Now out of federation, Norman Manley announced that his government would proceed with preparations for independence.
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