On September 15th, Governor-General Sandra Mason read a speech written by Prime Minister Mia Mottley announcing Barbados’ plan to remove Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State by the 55th anniversary of Barbados’ independence which falls on November 30, 2021.
“Barbadians want a Barbadian Head of State. This is the ultimate statement of confidence in who we are and what we are capable of achieving. Hence, Barbados will take the next logical step toward full sovereignty and become a Republic by the time we celebrate our 55th Anniversary of Independence.” Governor-General Sandra Mason read out on behalf of the Prime Minister. This excerpt is from the Throne speech which outlines the government’s agenda and programs for the new session of parliament.
The idea of becoming a republic has been brought up several times over the years. Barbados gained independence in 1966, with Errol Barrow as Prime Minister. Errol Barrow was quoted in the recent speech as he had famously warned about, “Loitering on Colonial Premises.” Since gaining independence, republicanism has been addressed consistently over the years. In the 1970s, a commission was held to study the possibility of introducing a republic system. The study concluded that Barbados would prefer to stay as a Constitutional Monarchy. The idea was brought up again in the early ’90s by the Barbados Labour Party and a referendum was proposed. This was a hot topic in Barbados again in 2005 when a Referendum bill was passed into law. The then Deputy Prime Minister, Mia Mottley was in support of this. The former Prime Minister Fruendel Stuart in 2015 had announced that Barbados was going to move towards a republican form of government in the near future.
So what exactly does becoming a republic mean? According to Brittanica, a republic is “a form of government in which a state is ruled by the representatives of the citizen body. Modern Republics are founded on the idea that sovereignty rests with the people. The term republic can also be applied to any form of government in which the Head of State is not a hereditary monarch.” This in turn begs the question of what role the Queen held and what it means to remove the Queen as Head of State. Since independence, Queen Elizabeth II has been the sovereign and head of the State of Barbados which is supposed to be seen as the personification of Barbados. On the royal website, her role is described as “the ‘constitutional monarch’ of Barbados, The Queen is not involved in the day-to-day business of Barbados’ Government. However, she is in regular contact with the Governor-General – her representative there – who keeps her updated with any significant news or developments. The Governor-General is appointed on the advice of Barbadian ministers.”
Removing the Queen and having a Barbadian Head of State, is “the ultimate statement of confidence” Prime Minister Mia Mottley said. In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a step into reimagining what Barbados could look like by cutting colonial ties. Prime Minister Mia Mottley, the nation’s first female Prime Minister said in an interview with ABC News, “the truth is, it’s important to us that we give confidence to our young people … to believe they can aspire to become the Head of State of their own country…at the very personal level, I have tremendous regard for Her Majesty, I have a very good relationship with Prince Charles, our countries have had deep relationships, and I think we’re mature enough to know the time has come for us to move forward.”
Photo Credit: Prime Minister Mia Mottley Instagram
Other countries that have removed the Queen as Head of State include Trinidad and Tobago in 1976, Dominica in 1978, and Guyana in 1970. All three countries have remained in the Commonwealth and also Barbados is expected to stay in the Commonwealth. Jamaica has recently expressed interest in becoming a republic too, and plans on holding a referendum to remove the Queen as Head of State. The last country that removed the Queen as Head of State was Mauritius in 1992, making Barbados the first country in almost three decades to make this move. The Queen, however, is still the head of several other countries in the commonwealth including the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, St Lucia, Grenada, and several other countries in the Caribbean.
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