Governor General Sir Elliott Belgrave today served notice of his plans to retire next year.
The 85-year-old former High Court judge has served as this country’s Head of State for the past five years, having acted in post from November 1, 2011 before his formal appointment on June 1 of the following year.
However, during his annual Christmas visit to the Psychiatric Hospital, Black Rock, St Michael today, Sir Elliott told the patients there that “when this time comes around next year, you may well have a new Governor General coming to visit you, because I intend to retire sometime next year.
“By this time next year, if I’m alive and well, I have no intention of visiting as Governor General. I wish to retire and enjoy peace and tranquility and my family,” he added.
His announcement follows that of Prime Minister Freundel Stuart last year that he intended on making this island a republic.
However, Sir Elliott, who had previously embraced the idea of changing the current monarchial system, said his reasons for stepping down at this stage were personal. Sir Elliott explained that while he had enjoyed his role as representative of the British Queen, his family’s wishes had prompted his decision to retire.
Regarded as ‘the Governor General of the people’, since taking up the post in 2012, Sir Elliott has shown himself to be a Head of State with a difference. While others in the past might have been accused of not visiting the trenches but sticking slavishly to their constitutional roles, he was credited for breaking that mould.
Whether it be the crime situation in the country, industrial disharmony, disquiet in the education system, or simple inter-personal relationships, Sir Elliott has not been averse to speaking his mind, offering advice and demonstrating leadership. He even made it clear where he stood in the debate on Barbados going republic.
“It is a matter for us. So get that clear and let the people know that it is a matter for them to decide,” was his reaction last year to the Prime Minister’s announcement about going republic.
“There doesn’t need to be any fighting about it. All that has to be done is to discuss it, and let those people who don’t know what it entails understand,” Sir Elliott said at the time.
He even quipped that if Barbados eventually went that route, he could still keep his job.
“People seem to think that if Barbados becomes a republic that I will lose my job. That is not so. I wear my job at the pleasure of the Prime Minister and as long as I am able to do it and I don’t say foolishness or do foolishness, he wouldn’t fire me, I don’t think . . . And even if he did, what? Every good thing comes to an end,” said Sir Elliott, who was addressing students at the Mount Tabor Primary School in St John.
Apart from his expected visits with this island’s centenarians, one of his lasting contributions will be the time he took to visit all of this country’s primary schools. During those visits, Sir Elliott, who was born in St Peter, sought to inspire thousands in the school system by using himself as an example of someone reared in humble circumstances, who through self-esteem, education and focus, had risen to the position of Head of State.
“It does not matter where you come, from you can all do great things once you put you mind to it,” he constantly advised.
Since the attainment of Independence, Barbados has been served by six native Governors General. Sir John Stow, the country’s last colonial governor between 1959 and November 29, 1966, was the first Governor General at the achievement of Independence, and he continued in that position until May 1967. In the intervening years, the post was held by Sir Winston Scott – the first native representative of the British monarch. He was followed by Sir Deighton Ward, Sir Hugh Springer, Dame Nita Barrow and Sir Clifford Husbands, whose retirement in 2011 made way for Sir Elliott’s elevation.