Kingston - Prince Harry arrived in Jamaica's capital on Monday for a four-day visit amid a push by the country's new prime minister to sever ties with the British monarchy and turn the page on its colonial past.
The 27-year-old prince arrived by private jet to Kingston's international airport, receiving a 21-gun salute from members of the Jamaica Defence Force. Wearing a dark blue suit, he inspected a military honour guard before being introduced to lawmakers and diplomats on the breezy tarmac in this former colony of Britain.
The youngest son of Lady Diana and Prince Charles has been dispatched to the Caribbean as part of a Diamond Jubilee tour in honour of Queen Elizabeth II as she celebrates 60 years on the throne. The queen, in a rare concession to her advancing years, has asked her children and grandchildren to attend jubilee festivities overseas.
After Harry's arrival in Kingston, he was driven in a motorcade to the ornate residence of the governor general, the queen's representative on the island which achieved independence from Britain in 1962 but still recognises the queen of England as the titular head of state.
On Tuesday, he is scheduled to visit Usain Bolt Stadium, where he is to meet the Olympic great, who has become the face of track and field since setting world records in both the 100m and 200m races at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Harry also plans a private lunch with Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, which could be awkward since the Jamaican leader has recently ignited a simmering debate over whether his grandmother should remain the country's head of state.
Simpson Miller first announced her desire to replace Queen Elizabeth II as Jamaica's head of state with a Jamaican president during her swearing-in ceremony on January 6 after leading the People's National Party to a resounding win in elections.
Symbol of stability
In an interview last week with The Associated Press, Simpson Miller, while professing strong admiration for the queen, described the political change she wants as a memorial for Jamaica's national heroes and the unheralded victims of slavery.
"I think the fact that August coming will be 50 years since we have gained our independence that it's time for us to sever the ties," Simpson Miller said on Thursday during the AP interview.
In former UK colonies across the ethnically diverse British Caribbean, the monarchy elicits excitement in some middle-age and older people who see the royal family as a symbol of stability, and mostly yawns from a younger generation.
But some younger Jamaicans were excited by the buzz surrounding his visit.
"It's fun that he's here in Jamaica. I've seen him on TV," said Latoya Spencer, a 29-year-old hair stylist.
Harry has already been to Belize and the Bahamas. He also plans to travel to Brazil.
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