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Queen Elizabeth II Visits Jamaica

February 19, 2002

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KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) _ In a visit that confronts the realities of post-colonial Jamaica, Queen Elizabeth II readied herself for a second day in this former British colony, preparing to speak before many legislators who no longer want to swear allegiance to her.

The queen was to address Parliament on Tuesday in a special session attended by Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, who last year proposed changing the constitution to remove references to the crown.

``I cannot think of anyone who does not feel a sense of discomfort at being obliged to swear allegiance to a foreign monarch,″ Patterson said in proposing a constitutional amendment to alter parliamentary oaths.

The 75-year-old monarch’s first day in the Caribbean country was filled with the normal pomp and circumstance _ 21-gun salutes, grateful veterans and smiling children waving flags _ but there was a resounding question of the crown’s relevance to the struggling island.

``It’s nice to see her one more time here. But I would like to know what she’s doing for us,″ said Annmarie Gray, 27. ``I don’t see anything that Britain is doing for Jamaica.″

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

A 21-gun salute, reserved for heads of state, was fired and then a military band played Jamaica’s national anthem. Outside the airport, meanwhile, Rastafarians demonstrated, demanding that the crown pay for their repatriation to Africa. Many blame Britain for supporting slavery.

The queen, accompanied by her husband, Prince Philip, is on a journey that will 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 crown. Many consider the symbolic ties an outdated colonial hangover. The island remained British until independence in 1962.

Still, 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.

Jamaica’s tourism-dependent economy has suffered as the country has become one of the most dangerous islands in the Caribbean, plagued by high murder rates and crushing poverty.

Othniel Falcolner, a 17-year-old student disfigured by a scar from forehead to chin from a razor fight in his high-crime east Kingston 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.″