While ceremonies for the formal crowning of King Charles III were taking place in London over the weekend, two more Caribbean countries thought it was timely to publicly indicate that they want to become republics and no longer have a British monarch as their head of state.
Belize and—surprisingly—Grenada said they were actively considering joining Guyana, Trinidad, Dominica, and Barbados to move from independent nations to full-fledged republics in the coming months.
This is as a recently appointed Jamaican constitutional commission has formally recommended that the island become a republic in the next year and appoint its own native president as head of state after holding a referendum on the issue. The main opposition People’s National Party (PNP) has signaled support for the switch as the committee works on deleting parts of the constitution that will have to be amended and on those that will have to be included in a new constitutional order.
In Belize, Prime Minister John Briceno told the UK Guardian newspaper that locals are not that excited about the monarchy and related activities in London. He said the time has come to move on and that it is very likely that the nation would do so.
“You don’t see people taking out their Union Jack flags or anything,” he said. Asked about whether Belize would become a republic, he said that “I think the chance is quite high. It’s quite likely.”
The cabinet established a reform commission late last year to update clauses to better reflect present-day realities. Sessions have already been held. Constitutional Affairs Minister Charles Usher said at the launching ceremony that the new document should represent local values and principles: “Should we as a sovereign independent nation continue to be told what to think? Or how to govern ourselves? Or should we advocate for the ability to make decisions that we believe are in the best interest of Belize? Will we finally appreciate that sovereignty does not reside in an island thousands of miles away but rather is firmly entrenched in the Belizean people?”
As with other Caricom nations, entrenched clauses like a switch to republicanism must be approved by a referendum.
Meanwhile, the Eastern Caribbean nation of Grenada said now may be the best time for it to dump the British king as head of state, but Prime Minister Dickon Amiss Thomas Mitchell did indicate that such a move has its political and other challenges. “It’s not an immediate priority for us. If the public is convinced that it’s the right thing to happen, then I think we will see energy being galvanized and I think we will see us moving in that direction,” he told British Sky News recently, noting he hopes this is achieved while he is prime minister. He won general elections nearly a year ago. He is 45.
The PM is, however, a bit worried about financing for a local president who will replace a governor general. “You have a ceremonial head of state, so you have the governor-general, who essentially represents the monarch, and then you have a prime minister. It’s not inexpensive [to change]. If you’re a small developing nation, the cost of government matters, because if you’ve got too expensive a government, then that means you’re putting resources into government that can be better used for education, healthcare—for improving the general standard of care of the citizens.”
Others making noises about becoming republics include the Bahamas, Antigua, and St. Vincent.
Late last year, Vincentian Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves asked opposition parties to unite on the subject, saying he won’t take the issue to a referendum vote unless they support it.
“I will tell you this,” he said. “I am prepared, if the opposition agrees today, before the end of the year or early next year, to put one question in a referendum to have a home-grown president in the manner in which I’ve just described—a non-executive president, and as was laid out in the proposed constitution—and let us go with that one single issue to the people to complete the national democratic task,” Gonsalves told parliament.
Back in 2009, locals voted 29,109 to 22,493 against dumping the British colonial system in favor of a local one.