Tiny Barbados is preparing to dump Britain’s Queen Elizabeth after centuries of imperial colonial rule. The nation has decided to replace her with a local head of state and, like Guyana, Trinidad and a few other Caribbean trade bloc states, soon proclaim itself a republic.
Long regarded as the world’s best organized and most well run Afro state, leading authorities on the tourism-dependent island of 300,000 people said this week that the time has long passed for it to become a republic and fully govern its own affairs.
At no other place in the region do British citizens feel as comfortable as in Barbados, where they are treated as mini royals, but the country’s current generation of leaders, surprisingly led by conservative Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, says there is no reason for the aging Queen of Britain to still loom large over the island as its head of state and, as is the case now, have the final say as to who is appointed as the island’s governor and representative of Buckingham Palace.
On the 166-square-mile island near Trinidad and just below the Windward Islands, nearly every village has a recognizable British name, be it Bridgetown the capital or districts bearing such titles as Dover or St. Lawrence or St. Phillip. British rock stars such as Sir Cliff Richard maintain homes on the island and a string of English celebrities such as ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair and entertainment mogul Simon Cowell usually holiday there in full public view. Barbados is also the birthplace of Rihanna. Tiger Woods had his wedding at a posh island west coast facility a few years ago, and Oprah Winfrey has investments there.
“We cannot pat ourselves on the shoulder at having gone into independence, having de-colonized our politics. We cannot pat ourselves on the shoulders at having decolonized our jurisprudence by delinking from the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and explain to anybody why we continue to have a monarchical system,” Stuart said.
The Privy Council he speaks about is Britain’s highest judicial court, which also serves as the final appeals court for much of the bloc’s member states barring Guyana, Belize, Barbados and Dominica. Others have pledged to join the Trinidad-based court in the future.
Stuart did not name a date when a local would become the ceremonial head of state, as is the case in neighboring Trinidad and Dominica, but said the entire changeover and abandonment of centuries of a British monarch as the island’s chief representative will come shortly. Guyana, Suriname and Haiti have executive heads of state.
“We respect [the queen] very highly as head of the Commonwealth and accept that she and all of her successors will continue to be at the apex of our political understanding. But in terms of Barbados’ constitutional status, we have to move from a monarchical system to a republican form of government in the very near future,” Stuart told party supporters at a function.
“A republican form of government stipulates that those who run the people’s affairs should be chosen directly or indirectly by the people themselves. We already do that. We have been doing that continuously since 1951, when we got universal adult suffrage.”
In announcing plans to overhaul the system of governance, Stuart appears on course to trump Portia Simpson-Miller, his Jamaican prime ministerial colleague who had vowed at the start of her 2011 term that she would lead the charge for Jamaica to also go down that road. Debate about such plans have since died down, as various developments in local politics have become major distractions to such political ambitions.