Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies Professor Sir Hilary Beckles is not holding his breath in the expectation that Barbados will become a republic anytime soon.
In fact, Sir Hilary believes this country will be the last to remove the queen as head of state.
It was in late March last year that Prime Minister Freundel Stuart told a St George South constituency branch meeting of the Democratic Labour Party that “we have to move from a monarchical system to a republican form of government in the very near future”.
This, observers interpreted to mean it would have happened for the 50th anniversary of Independence this year.
Yet, nothing has happened since, in very much the same way former Prime Minister Owen Arthur failed to follow through after announcing in 2005, his own plans for replacing the queen with a Barbadian president.
Speaking last night at the launch of his latest book, The first Black Slave Society: Britain’s Barbarity time in Barbados 1636-1876, Sir Hilary suggested Barbados was not yet ready to break its direct links with the British monarchy.
“My expectations is that Barbados will probably become the last country in this region to become a republic. I cannot see it. If you imagine that we cannot even get government to move Lord Nelson [statue] out of Parliament Square … a slave owner has a monument in our parliament square, and each time there is a conversation to move it there’s a public revolt. So how do you become a republic if you cannot remove an imperial warmonger slave owner . . . out of your parliament square?” he asked those gathered at the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination for the book launch.
In his presentation, the Barbadian historian again raised the issue of reparation, graphically comparing the treatment of African slaves on Caribbean plantations to that meted out to people held captive by international terrorist group ISIS.
“When we watch on television at night and we see what ISIS is doing to the people. What ISIS is doing to people is chicken feed, namby pamby stuff compared to what the English did to the Africans in the Caribbean. It is child’s play compared to what the English did to the Africans in all of these islands.
“When you read stuff like people being put in a cage and burnt alive, burning people in cages is a standard Caribbean practice,” he said.
Sir Hilary, who chairs the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Reparations Commission, appealed to regional leaders to better organize themselves in order to pressure Britain on the issue of reparation.
“Organized nations get reparations; and anytime you’re organized and you’re serious and you’re focused, and you put down conditions for your future relationships, then you will get the respect that is due to you.
“But disorganized, confused people who have doubts and so on will never get it; they’re going to move the goal post every time,” he told the audience.
National committees on reparations have so far been established in 12 CARICOM member states since the Commission first met in 2013.