Barbados Ditches the Queen

The Queen meets with Governor-General of Barbados Sandra Mason during a private audience at Buckingham Palace on March 28, 2018 in London, England.
The Queen meets Gov-General of Barbados Sandra Mason – a private audience at Buckingham Palace, Mar 2018

“Barbados is a republic. No one screamed ‘Blood and soil nationalism!” for the people were happy.” Grouse Beater

“The creation of this republic offers a new beginning,” Prince Charles

In an act that makes the government of Nicola Sturgeon appear beholden to Westminster’s agenda and fearful of making a move to independence in any meaningful way, Barbados has become a republic.

The government of Barbados has ditched the last of colonial links with the United Kingdom. ‘Royal’ and ‘Crown’ will be removed as a prefix from institutions and entities.

The move has been a long time coming and well advertised by the guardians of Barbados’ parliament, promoted vigorously in particular by its leader, Prime Minister Mia Mottley.

In fact, unlike the SNP and the Scottish Government, Mottley’s party has made it a core policy of her government’s political aims by conducting a consistent campaign of education over these last years. This is turn forced the anti-Republican media and press to include the government’s agenda in news bulletins, political discussion programmes and historical documentary.

Queen Elizabeth will have one less realm after this week, when Barbados severs its final imperial links to Britain by removing the 95-year-old as its head of state and declaring itself a republic.

The former British colony – which gained independence in 1966 – revived its plan to become a republic last September with the country’s governor general, Sandra Mason, saying, “the time has come to leave our colonial past behind”.

“Mason, a 73-year-old former jurist, will be sworn in as the first-ever president of the island nation of just under 300,000 at a ceremony late on Monday night.” CNN

Prince Charles endorses republicanism

Present at the festivities was Prince Charles, heir to the British throne and future head of the Commonwealth, a 54-member organization of mostly former British territories. He accepted an invitation from Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley to be guest of honor at the transition celebrations, according to Clarence House. It is known in high circles that Prince Charles is one of the few Royals who believes independence for Scotland is inevitable, and similarly a move to a republic.

“Becoming a republic is a coming of age,” said Guy Hewitt, who served as Barbados high commissioner to the United Kingdom between 2014 and 2018.

“I make the analogy to when a child grows up and gets their own house, gets their own mortgage, gives their parents back the keys because it says we are moving on. “Barbados’s decision marks the first time in nearly three decades that a realm has opted to remove the British monarch as head of state. The last nation to do so was the island of Mauritius in 1992.

Britain's Charles, Prince of Wales, greets Barbados' Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley ahead of their bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland
Prime Minister Mia Mottley and Prince Charles at Glasgow’s COP26 summit

Barbados slave past

The changeover comes nearly 400 years since the first English ship arrived on the most easterly of the Caribbean islands. Barbados was Britain’s oldest colony, settled in 1627, and “governed in an unbroken way by the English Crown to 1966,” according to Richard Drayton, professor of imperial and global history at Kings College London.

“At the same time, Barbados also provided an important source of private wealth in 17th and 18th-century England,” he said, adding that many made substantial family fortunes from sugar and slavery.

“It was the first laboratory for English colonialism in the tropics,” added Drayton, who grew up in the country.” It is in Barbados that the English first pass laws, which distinguish the rights of people who they call ‘Negroes,’ from those who are not, and it is the precedence set in Barbados in terms of economy and law, which then come to be transferred to Jamaica, and the Carolinas and the rest of the Caribbean, along with institutions of that colony.”

A decades-old debate

The writing has long been on the wall for a break-up between Barbados and Britain, with many calling for the removal of the Queen’s status over the years, according to Cynthia Barrow-Giles, a professor of constitutional governance and politics at The University of the West Indies (UWI) at Cave Hill, Barbados.

The desire to become a republic is more than 20 years old and “reflected the input in the governance consultations across the island and its diaspora. “The conclusion then was very simple,” Barrow-Giles said.

“Barbados had reached the stage of maturity in its political evolution where what ought to have been part and parcel of the movement to independence was not for pragmatic reasons. Fifty-five years later this failure is rectified by a prime minister who is determined to complete the process of nation-building which has obviously stalled for the last four decades or so.”

Covid-19 pandemic makes no difference

She explained that while most Barbadians are supportive of the transition, there has been some concern over the approach to it. Radical change is always accompanied by the naysayers who advocate people wait for the ‘percet time’.

thers have questioned the timeframe of just over a year that the government gave itself to make the transition, aligning the birth of the republic with the country’s 55th anniversary of independence on Tuesday.

Hewitt believes Mottley’s government wanted to act quickly to “try to take attention off of what is a very difficult time in Barbados.” He threw in the pandemic excuse as his main anxiety.

“The world suffers and struggles against the Covid-19 pandemic, but for Barbados, as a tourist-based economy, it has been particularly difficult,” he said. “If you accept the notion of a republic being a system being given to the people, the challenge we face is there’s not been a lot of consultation on becoming a republic. Yes, it was included in the throne speech. But the people of Barbados have not been part of this journey.” This is an exaggeration. Barbadians have debated becoming a republic for years, lately deciding on the best way to do it. Mia Mottley’s party campaigned on that core principle alone and received a landslide electorial victory to go ahead with the wishes of the people. It was a cast-iron mandate.

Hewitt does his best to make the issue one of complications. “What we are dealing with now is just the ceremonial, cosmetic changes and I feel that if we were really going to republic, it should have been a meaningful journey, where the people of Barbados were engaged in the entire process of conceptualisation to actually bringing it to fruition,” he added.

As expected there was initial opposition to becoming a republic. Those with privileges under the Commonwealth scheme, and honours from the Monarch, felt excluded from the debate. It’s a sentiment shared by Ronnie Yearwood, an activist and lecturer of law at the UWI Cave Hill campus in Barbados.

Seeing the future, Yearwood now supports the declaration of a republic, but feels obliged to add “robbed of an opportunity to have my beautiful moment. The government made a decision on the type of republic that we were going to become, without asking me the voter, me the citizen, what form of republic do you want?” The Barbadian government “focused on the endgame” rather than the process of transition.

It is often said that cutting loose from Westminster will seem normal once done, so it transpires with Barbados and the British Monarchy. Jeremiahs and Jonahs aside, It is often said that cutting loose from Westminster will seem normal once done, so it transpires with Barbados and the British Monarchy. The mass of the electorate feel a republic to be a normal state of existence, especially one that was once a slave colony. Scotland, to offer a simile, has been in servitude to Westmisnter rule since 1707, sometimes brutal and bloody, often by unwanted and repressive laws, it’s devolutionary government a token gesture.

Colonies are invariably awarded mock (known as ‘pretendy’), self-governance by their colonial masters in the form of a few weak powers and an administration packed with politicians offering allegiance to the colonial power. In Scotland’s case, it is to the Queen, and ipso facto, to Westminster.

Until recently, Scotland’s laws were protected by retention of its own unique law system, broken once the UK established a Supreme Court that can overrule anything Scotland’s passes. The occasional judgement in favour of Scotland, made by a group of judges some of whom are Scots, does not undermine the absolute finality of the Supreme Court rulings. Now out of the EU, Scotland has no other body to which it can appeal that Westminster will respect. Scotland’s traditional ties with Europe are severed.

Barbados in Glasgow

Prime Minister Mottley, who recently charmed world leaders at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, did not need to hold a public referendum on the subject to push forward. In May, her government created a Republican Status Transition Advisory Committee, a 10-member group tasked with helping manage the transition from a monarchical system to a republic.

The only hurdle was securing a two-thirds majority in parliament, which was a relatively straight-forward process given her party has held a majority since her landslide victory in 2018.

Barrow-Giles said that the government “was able to determine what legally and politically were required to patriate the constitution” adding that Barbados’s changeover “is consistent with the road travelled by other jurisdictions.”

“The fact that Prince Charles is in Barbados for this very important occasion for the country is testimony to the lack of opposition to the move by the royal family and essentially an endorsement of the transition,” she added.

With such an amicable split, other nations could follow Barbados’s lead, according to Drayton.”I would imagine this issue will now sharpen the debate within Jamaica, as well as elsewhere in the Caribbean,” he said.

“The decision in some ways doesn’t reflect any evaluation of the House of Windsor. I do think it reflects more of a sense of people within Barbados now think it’s a little bit absurd to have your head of state determined by the circumstances of birth in a family which resides 4,000 miles away.”

Will other countries follow?

Hewitt, too, anticipates more countries may opt to break with the British monarchy but suggests that will happen after the reign of Elizabeth II comes to an end “simply because the Queen is held in such high regard. People would see it as almost a personal slight against her to do it now. But I feel that once the Crown passes, people will feel that it is time.”

The move to a republic began well before Barbados achieved independence. It has been delayed by successive administrations dragging their feet, and a debate influenced by UK authorities often espoused by colonial placemen publishing black propaganda and scaremongering, a tactic with which Scots will be familiar, done in an effort to retain Barbados as a UK territory.

The attitude to interference in the democracy of Barbados has usually been batted off as unacceptable. As Mia Mottley said, “The decision was a matter for the government and people of Barbados, adding that it was not “out of the blue” and had been “mooted and publicly talked” about many times.

On the first day of the republic no Union Jack flags will fly in Barbados.

NOTE: For a fuller understanding see GB’s essay: Aspects of this report have been culled from CNN.


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6 Responses to Barbados Ditches the Queen

  1. duncanio says:

    It makes me positively purr at the prospect of a Scottish Republic.

  2. alfbaird says:

    Weel duin Barbados, shawin Scotlan the wey hits duin, an wi anely a pairlamentary feck (majority).

  3. xsticks says:

    I’m so effing jealous…well done Barbados.

  4. diabloandco says:

    Three cheers for the lovely island of Barbados , well done indeed.

  5. alfbaird says:

    If only us Scots were like Barbadians: (a) a sovereign people (b) wi an elected national majority.
    Than we coud dae whit we wantit wi oor ain kintra!?!?

  6. twathater says:

    The problem with Barbados becoming independent and now a republic is that apart from its beauty england cannot profit from vast amounts of natural resources from Barbados unlike Scotland with its oil that england has siphoned off and used to Scotland’s detriment , as far as I’m aware Barbados was heavily subsidised by the uk in being a crown dependency in return for being a tax haven which the parasites in the uk government and elsewhere were extremely happy to utilise probably with Scotland’s oil money

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