Prince William extols Commonwealth ties

LONDON (AP) — As Caribbean nations debate their relationship with the British crown, Britain’s Prince William has said he would support and respect whatever decision the people make.

Guillermo, second in line to the throne, made these statements after an eight-day tour of Belize, Jamaica and the Bahamas, in which he and his wife Catalina were honored but also criticized for lack of sensitivity and perpetuating images of the British colonial government. Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holnes told them that his country intended to become a republic and remove the British monarch as his head of state.

“I know that this tour has drawn even more attention to issues related to the past and the future,” Guillermo said in a statement reflecting on the tour that concluded on Saturday. “In Belize, Jamaica and the Bahamas, that future is for the people to decide.”

William and Catherine visited the three countries as representatives of Queen Elizabeth II, who celebrates the 70th anniversary of her reign this year. During those seven decades she has been the head of state of the United Kingdom and 14 “dependencies” that were colonies of the British Empire and are now independent countries.

The couple were met by protests demanding an apology for Britain’s role in enslaving millions of Africans and reparations for the harm caused by slavery. In a speech in Jamaica, William expressed “deep regret” over slavery, but stopped short of offering an apology.

William admitted the changing nature of ties between Britain and its former colonies during a speech Friday night in Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas.

“We proudly and respectfully support his decisions about his future,” Guillermo said. “Relationships evolve. The friendship endures.”

Whatever the former colonies decide about their relationship with the crown, William said he wanted to continue to serve them through the Commonwealth, a voluntary association of 54 countries with historical ties to Britain. The Queen has led the Commonwealth throughout her reign, and Prince Charles, William’s father, is her designated successor.

Guillermo recognized that perhaps he would not follow in his footsteps.

“Who the Commonwealth chooses to lead their family in the future is not what I have in mind,” he said. “What matters to us is the potential of the Commonwealth family to create a better future for the people who make it up and our commitment to serve and support as best we can.”

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