7 Jan 2012

Jamaican PM looks to republic status

9:26 am on 7 January 2012

Jamaica's new Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller intends to make the island a republic, removing Queen Elizabeth as the head of state.

In an inaugural address on Friday, Ms Simpson Miller said the time had come for Jamaica to break with the British monarchy and have its own president.

Jamaica this year marks 50 years of independence from Britain. Prince Harry is due to visit.

After swearing the oath of office on Friday, Ms Simpson Miller said:

''I love the Queen, she is a beautiful lady, and apart from being a beautiful lady she is a wise lady and a wonderful lady.

''But I think time come. As we celebrate our achievements as an independent nation, we now need to complete the circle of independence.''

In response, Buckingham Palace said "the issue of the Jamaican head of state was entirely a matter for the Jamaican government and people".

Ms Simpson Miller, 66, became prime minister for the second time after the People's National Party won a big election victory on 29 December.

The BBC reports the inaugural address mostly focused on her plans to revive Jamaica's economy. The island has widespread poverty, high unemployment and huge debts.

Previous promise

However, she is not the first Jamaican leader to promise to move towards a republic.

In the early 1990s, then-Prime Minister PJ Patterson also said it was time for the island to have its own head of state, and set 2007 as the deadline.