There is little doubt that Barbados’ move to become a republic last November appears to have motivated a slew of fellow Caribbean Community nations to follow suit with the latest indications coming from the St. Kitts Nevis federation in the Eastern Caribbean.
Its government says that the time has come when the federation of about 60,000 people should complete its full circle of independence by ditching the British monarch as its head of state, appoint a local as its president and become a republic like Guyana, Trinidad, Dominica and Barbados in the coming months. Guyana was the first back in 1970.
New Prime Minister Terrence Drew used a 39th independence day address at the weekend to tell the nation that it needs to become truly independent by becoming a republic.
“The debates are robust and lively in our barbershops, village bars and shops and even in our homes among friends and relatives. I will confess, we are not totally free yet. As a small island nation, we depend on many partners, internationally and regionally. But we are on a path of continuous improvement for our people and our country. And as your fourth prime minister of this land, I am honored to lead our country along this path. Our nation is much closer to true independence than not,” the Cuba trained medical doctor said.
Drew’s St. Kitts Nevis Labor Party won a landslide victory in general elections in early August, taking advantage of the public breakup of the previous multi party coalition government that was in its second consecutive term.
The switch to a republic was not a main campaign issue in the run up to the Aug. 5 polls but the PM has now placed it on the political front burner saying authorities are eyeing a definitive move by next year’s 40th independence anniversary. Barbados made the switch on its 55 anniversary.
Since then, a seemingly jealous Jamaica which often prides itself as a leader of things Caribbean, has begun a frenzied campaign to become a republic but its efforts to make the transition in time for its 60th independence celebrations in August were stymied by the need to follow some serious constitutional steps including the holding of a referendum to achieve this.
Antigua, Belize, The Bahamas, Grenada as well as Jamaica and St. Kitts have all made clear statements about becoming republics. Bahamian Prime Minister Phillips Davis recently talked about allowing locals to decide even as he indicated that he was not against it. Jamaican PM Andrew Holness was even more pellucid and blunt when he told a visiting Prince Williams and wife, Kate, earlier this year that Jamaica was “moving on” to become a republic, an announcement that had clearly caught the royals off guard.
Going more in-depth during his broadcast in St. Kitts, Drew says the big move could occur for the 40th anniversary next year as we also set our eyes on transitioning into a republic. “We trod on towards that goal. That goal of self-determination and self-actualization is where we truly encapsulate our sovereignty. That is why each time I get the opportunity to speak to our nation’s young people, I challenge them to be innovative, to be creative and to envision a better St. Kitts and Nevis and use their immense skills to help get us there.”
From all appearances, most of the regional governments plan to use major national upcoming milestones to either make a case for republicanism or to actually make a switch.
For example, The Bahamas would have been 50 years as an independent nation next year so the talk about being a republic is on the rise. Prince William had also stopped over there on his regional swing where protestors had called on the administration to dump then Queen Elizabeth as its head of state and become a republic.
For its part as well, Jamaica’s government has even created a special ministry of legal and constitutional affairs to overhaul laws and prepare for the switch. The referendum is expected to be held this year.