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Queen Elizabeth II begins visit to Jamaica

Tuesday, February 19, 2002

KINGSTON, Jamaica -- Queen Elizabeth II arrived Monday on a visit to Jamaica, where she remains ceremonial monarch but citizens are increasingly questioning their centuries-old ties to the crown.

She was met on a red carpet at Kingston's international airport by Prime Minister P.J. Patterson and Gov. Gen. Howard Cooke, the Jamaican who performs the largely symbolic role of representing the queen here.

Cannons fired the 21-gun salute reserved for heads of state, and then a military band played Jamaica's national anthem as the queen inspected members of an honor guard in scarlet dress uniforms.

The 75-year-old monarch, who is accompanied by her husband, Prince Philip, is on a journey that will also include visits to the former colonies of Canada and Australia.

The visit follows the death of her sister Princess Margaret, whose funeral was Friday.

During the three-day visit here, the queen likely will hear from all sides in the discussion over Jamaica's links to the crow. Many consider the symbolic ties an outdated colonial hangover.

Patterson no longer wants Jamaican legislators to swear an oath of allegiance to Elizabeth when they are sworn into Parliament, which the queen is to address Tuesday.

"I cannot think of anyone who does not feel a sense of discomfort at being obliged to swear allegiance to a foreign monarch," he said last year in proposing a constitutional amendment.

Other Jamaicans remain loyal to the crown.

"I think we should try and maintain as close a relationship as possible with England," said Rohan Burnett, a 32-year-old security guard. "It's our mother country," he said.

WWI vet waited for her

A similar sentiment came Friday from a World War I veteran waiting to meet the queen at National Heroes Park, where famous Jamaicans are buried, including some executed by the British for an 1865 insurrection.

Eugent Clarke, 107, said: "I feel very proud to see her because she is from England, and England is my mother country."

Clarke got to shake the monarch's hand briefly Monday, after she touched a wreath at a memorial honoring war victims.

A rain shower began as the queen arrived, forcing many of the veterans to plop brightly colored handkerchiefs or bags on their heads. The queen stayed only about 10 minutes without greeting hundreds who stood in the rain to see her.

Annmarie Gray, 27, also held out hope that the royal visit somehow would improve life in Jamaica: "It's nice to see her one more time here. But I would like to know what she's doing for us," she said. "I don't see anything that Britain is doing for Jamaica"

on neighborhood, said he couldn't wait to see the queen.

"I want her to take me back to England," he said. "There are bad people here and everything is corrupt. I want to leave."

Annmarie Gray, 27, also held out hope that the royal visit somehow would improve life in Jamaica: "It's nice to see her one more time here. But I would like to know what she's doing for us," she said. "I don't see anything that Britain is doing for Jamaica"


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