As Barbados prepares to mark its 50th anniversary of political independence later this month, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart Monday issued a timely reminder to Barbadians that the process of transforming the island from a former British colony into an independent state is not yet fully complete.
“We are still on the latter journey, for while for sure we have achieved nationhood, with all of its accoutrements of anthem, flag and pledge, we are still on the way to true and effective independence, which is always evidenced by the full decolonization of our institutions and, most important, by the decolonization of the minds of our people,” he said in an address to the launch of the Challenge to Change 50th Independence Anniversary special edition magazine.
During this morning’s event at the Barbados Hilton Resort at which 50 retired public servants were also honoured for their “inestimable” contribution to the island’s development, there was however no mention by the Prime Minister of a promise he made more than a year ago to complete the process of decolonization with the establishment of a republican form of government.
“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. Therefore, the Right Excellent Errol Barrow decolonized the politics; Owen Arthur decolonized the jurisprudence and Freundel Stuart is going to complete the process, ” Stuart had solemnly promised during the branch meeting held by his ruling Democratic Labour Party at the St Luke’s Resource Centre back in March 2015.
Although Stuart did not give a precise timeline at the time, he had said that while “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 . . . 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”.
However, nothing more has been said by Stuart of the Republic plan.
Monday the Prime Minister chose instead to focus on the contribution of this island’s public service, while suggesting that only the “ungracious and churlish would want to divorce the consistently high international reputation of Barbados over the years from the quality and contribution of its public service”.
“All of you have rendered inestimable service to the public sector, and by extension the nation, during the last 50 years, and often at great personal sacrifice,” he told the retirees, including former police commissioner Orville Durant, former senior medical officer Dr Elizabeth Ferdinand, former director of public sector reform Michael Archer, former head of the Barbados Government Information Service Margaret Hope and head of the Barbados Landship Captain Vernon Watson.
Stuart, who has responsibility for the public service, said the country owes “a huge debt of gratitude to the public service of Barbados”, which currently numbers 24,000, including 4,000 employees at statutory corporations.
He also said the honourees had left behind “a proud legacy that must be the guiding light for the present leaders of the public service, as well for those who are about to receive the baton to take us into the next 50 years”.