Given the celebration of the Golden Jubilee, it might be appropriate to examine how Independent Barbados was birthed; how all of the things we take for granted and in some cases, do not even know about came into being.
First off, securing independence was not a revolution. The Barbados Independence Act, Chapter 37 (United Kingdom) was passed on the 17th November 1966 “to make provision for, and in connection with, the attainment by Barbados of fully responsible status within the Commonwealth.”
Section 1 of that Act states that “On or after 30th November 1966 (in this act referred to as “the appointed day”) Her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom shall have no responsibility for the government of Barbados.”
In other words, laws enacted by the British Parliament would have no automatic application within the 166 square miles of Barbados from the appointed day. The right to British Citizenship also ceased as well.
The Independence Act also made provision for the bedrock of the “new” Barbados, the Constitution. Section 5 stated that “Her Majesty may by Order in Council made before the appointed day provide a constitution for Barbados to come into effect on that day.”
The Barbados Independence Order (Statutory Instrument No. 1455 of 1966) was laid before the British Parliament on the 22nd November 1966 and came into operation on the 30th November 1966 as prescribed in section 5 of the British Act.
Granted, the status of the country changed from being a colony to an independent nation but while we would acquire a new Constitution, no one expected the wheel to be reinvented and, by section 2 of the Order, the change would “not affect the operation on and after the appointed day of any law made or having effect as if made in pursuance of the existing Order and having effect as part of the law of Barbados immediately before the first Independence Day.
The savings law clause would provide that such laws would be applied “with such modifications, adaptations, qualifications and exceptions as may be necessary to bring it into conformity with the Barbados Independence Act 1966 and this Order) as if it had been made under the Constitution by Parliament or, as the case may require, by the other authority or person.”
Everything else remained the same, the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition, Judges, public officials, Senators and so on. Then, on 30th November 1966, while all the pomp and pageantry at the Garrison Savannah focussed on the lowering of the Union Jack and the raising of the Broken Trident, the Constitution, Chapter 1 of the Laws of Barbados, quietly came into being.
That document recited that
“the people of Barbados (a) proclaim that they are a sovereign nation founded upon principles that acknowledge the supremacy of God, the dignity of the human person, their unshakeable faith in fundamental human rights and freedoms and the position of the family in a society of free men and free institutions;(b) affirm their belief that men and institutions remain free only when freedom is founded upon respect for moral and spiritual values and the rule of law; (c) declare their intention to establish and maintain a society in which all person may, to the full extent of their capacity, play a due part in the institutions of the national life; (d) resolve that the operation of the economic system shall promote the general welfare by the equitable distribution of the material resources of the community, by the human conditions under which all men shall labour and by the undeviating recognition of ability, integrity and merit…”
Barbados, 50 years from the birth of the nation, when you hold up the mirror, what image do you see? Are you even looking? Put politics aside and, by all means, celebrate but along with the pomp, pageantry and revelry, let there also be sober reflection as we seek to chart the path for the next 50 years and beyond.
My fellow Barbadians, Happy Independence to you all.
(Alicia Archer is an attorney-at-law in private practice)