March 2023 | Prime Minister announces Constitutional Reform Committee
Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced on 22 March the establishment of a Constitutional Reform Committee (CRC) to oversee and assist in the country’s transformation from a constitutional monarchy towards a republic. The CRC is comprised of 14 members representing diverse sectors, including civil society, academia and youth representatives, government, the parliamentary opposition, chief legal officers, as well as constitutional law and governance experts – under the leadership of Jamaica’s Minister of Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Marlene Malahoo Forte.
The CRC has been tasked to provide guidance and oversight throughout the constitutional review process and through the implementation of recommendations. The protracted constitutional reform process will be carried out in three phases that will involve a thorough and comprehensive review of the 1962 Constitution of Jamaica. The government plans to subsequently hold a referendum by the end of 2024 or beginning of 2025, regarding the proposal for Jamaica’s transition to a republic.
February 2023 | Local government elections postponed for third time
On 21 February, Jamaica’s House of Representatives approved the Representation of the People Act, 2023 (Postponement of Elections to Municipal Corporations and City Municipalities). The bill effectively postponed the country’s local elections for a further 12 months - the third consecutive postponement of local elections in the country.
Local elections are constitutionally due every four years and were last held in November 2016. Initially scheduled for November 2020, the elections were postponed to February 2022 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. They were then further delayed by the government by 12 months as to avoid public health risks amid the fourth wave of the pandemic. They were due to be held this month, but the government did not approve the budget for the election submitted by the Electoral Office of Jamaica, citing fiscal constraints. Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie has stated that the postponement will allow the country to continue its post-pandemic economic recovery. Local elections in Jamaica are now expected to be held no later than 28 February 2024.
December 2022 | Jamaica renews regional states of emergency due to gang violence
After the measure was rejected in November, the Jamaican government reinstated a state of emergency (SOE) in several areas across the island on 6 December, followed by a renewed SOE on 28 December, effective until 11 January 2023. Jamaica, which has one of the highest homicide rates in the world, previously imposed similar measures over several parishes on 15 November, but that SOE ended after two weeks when the Senate refused to extend it.
The state of emergency is meant to allow authorities to arrest people and search buildings without a warrant in order to rein in rising violence. This has drawn heavy criticism from political opponents and human rights activists, who have warned against a repeat of police brutality and arbitrary detentions that were observed during previous states of emergency in Jamaica.
November 2022 | Jamaica declares regional states of emergency in response to surging crime
On 15 November, Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness declared a State of Public Emergency (SoE) in an attempt to control rising crime linked to gang violence. According to official figures, Jamaica, with the second highest murder rates in the world, has seen a nearly 7 per cent increase in murders since last year. SoEs were declared in several parishes and police divisions across the island, allowing authorities increased powers to arrest suspects and search buildings. However, the SoE came to an end on 29 November after the proposed extension failed to achieve a two-thirds majority in the Senate.