Jamaica gained independence from Britian on 6 August 1952. This module provides an overview of the key events on Jamaica's road to independence.
Road to Independence
Jamaica’s first colonial constitution gave considerable power to settlers. The governor’s council included senior figures such as the bishop and Chief Justice, but the representative assembly was controlled by white settlers. After the imposition of direct Crown colony rule in 1866, settlers lost their power and the Governor was advised only by the mainly nominated privy council. With amendments, this constitution was retained until 1944.
As World War II came to a close, a sweeping movement of decolonization overtook the world. At this time, the British Government and Jamaican politicians began a long transition of converting the Caribbean island from a crown colony into an independent state. Jamaica gained a degree of local political control in the mid-1940s. The People's National Party (PNP) was founded in 1938. Its main rival, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) was established five years later. The first elections under universal adult suffrage were held in 1944. The political climate of the socially prospering colony was primarily a contest between the PNP and JLP, with the houses of legislature switching hands between the two throughout the 1950s.
After leader of the PNP Norman Manley was elected Chief Minister in 1955, he sped up the process of decolonization via several constitutional amendments. These amendments allowed for greater self-government and established the Minister's administration as a cabinet under a premier.
Under Manley, Jamaica entered the West Indies Federation, a political union of colonized Caribbean entities that, if realized, would've united 10 British territories into a single, independent state. Jamaican's participation in the Federation was unpopular, and the results of a referendum held by Premier Manley cemented the colony's withdrawal from the union in 1962. The West Indies Federation collapsed later that year following the departure of Trinidad and Tobago.
In the elections of 1962, the JLP defeated the PNP, resulting in the ascension of Alexander Bustamanate to the premiership in April of that year. On 6 August 1962, Jamaica became an Independent Nation and a member of the British Commonwealth.. The Union Jack was ceremoniously lowered and replaced by the Jamaican flag throughout the country. Sir Alexander Bustamante became the independent country's first Prime Minister, and Sir Kenneth Blackburne its first Governor-GEneral
Princess Margaret opened the first session of the Parliament of Jamaica on behalf of her sister, the Queen, and handed over the constitutional documents to Sir Alexander.
Meaning of Independence
Jamaica becoming an Independent Nation, now meant that Britain, no longer controlled the affairs of the country. It was now the responsibility of the newly elected Prime Minister and the locally elected Cabinet.
Independence also meant that a Constitution, symbols, emblems, an army, Jamaican currency and passports had to be developed for the country.
As an Independent Nation, Jamaica assigns Ambassadors overseas who represent the country. They sign treaties on behalf of Jamaica and become members of various international organisations. This is important, as it gives Jamaica equal rights on various issues relating to international trade, policies and treaties.