Not to pour an ounce of cold water on what we see as a most propitious appointment of Madame Justice Sandra Mason to the post of Governor General of Barbados, we feel the need to step back for one moment and to ask a question of our goodly Prime Minister.
It is, what has become of his announced plan to move us away from “a monarchical system to a republican form of Government in the very near future”?
Like most, we would have interpreted this statement to mean that it would have happened by the time we reached our 50th anniversary of Independence last year, but nothing has happened since, in very much the same way that former Prime Minister Owen Arthur had failed to follow through after announcing in 2005, his own plans for replacing the Queen with a Barbadian president.
Yet, Mr Stuart’s words on the importance of republicanism as a means of completing our process of independence and removing the last major vestige of our colonial past remain haunting.
In making his strong case before the gathering of Democratic Labour Party faithful over two years ago, he said: “We cannot pat ourselves on the shoulder at having gone into Independence, having decolonized our politics, . . . 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.”
Obviously this plan has now changed, given Mr Stuart’s December 27 announcement that Justice Mason is to be officially appointed this island’s eighth Governor General on Monday, January 8, 2018 in the Senate Chambers. In fact those rehearsals are taking place as we speak, and the fact that elections are due here by the middle of this year means there are no more opportunities left for this current administration “to complete the process” as promised.
Be that as it may, we would have liked at the very least to be afforded an explanation from the Prime Minister as to why the seeming change of heart.
Was it something that was said in his subsequent audience with Prince Harry last November?
Was Her Majesty offended that ‘Little England’ was threatening to go it alone, or did the push back occur right here at home, leaving Mr Stuart with no choice but to uphold the wishes of the monarchists?
We clearly recall the strong warning issued by Sir Hilary Beckles last year that despite Government’s mouthings, Barbados was likely to be the last in the English speaking Caribbean to cut ties with the monarchy.
And while it remains to be seen if that prediction is totally true, there is certainly enough evidence right now to support his other contention, that Barbados was not yet ready to break its direct links with the British monarchy.
“My expectation 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 had asked those gathered at the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination for the launch of his book, The First Black Slave Society: Britain’s Barbarity time in Barbados 1636-1876.
In the absence of any contradictory moves on the part of Government, we are forced to agree with Sir Hilary on this one.
For whilst we do not condone the recent defacing of Lord Nelson’s statue as Sir Hilary surprisingly has, it has to be said that our Government – present and past – continues to tip toe around issues related to our colonial past in a way that belies our very independence boast and puts paid to any impression that has otherwise been created that we want to see the back of Her Majesty The Queen.
Indeed recent robust criticisms levelled in Parliament by this country’s leader against the Caribbean Court of Justice leaves us to wonder if we aren’t having second thoughts as well about removing the Privy Council as our court of last resorts.
We certainly hope not as this would be an even greater crying shame!