As Justice Sandra Mason was sworn in this Monday afternoon as the island’s eighth Governor General at the Senate chambers of Parliament, many Barbadians gathered on the outskirts of the Heroes Square expressed support for the retention of the constitutional monarchy.
The issue has been the subject of debate for well over 20 years with previous administrations, including the former Owen Arthur-led Barbados Labour Party leading the discussion on republicanism back in 2005. Nonetheless, some Barbadians say they have no problem with retaining the current governance structure with the British monarchy as the island’s figurehead.
“If it isn’t broken then there is no need to fix it, said Jennifer Yarde, who was among those watching today’s swearing in ceremony from along Wharf Road.
“I see nothing wrong with having with a Governor General . . . . It is something we have had for years and has been honoured by the people in the society,” Yarde insisted.
Her sentiments were shared with Juliet Straughn, who argued that the Governor General’s role as Queen’s representative was largely symbolic.
“I don’t really think about it one way or another because it doesn’t really bother me,” she told Barbados TODAY.
Ariel McChlery, who is a 19-year-old student, argued that the monarchial system was the ideal one, especially given the country’s current economic difficulties. However, she suggested that when the island achieved financial stability, the discussion on republicanism should be revisited by Government.
“We need to work on what is going on here and just become independent financially before we make those steps [towards republicanism],” she stressed.
Meanwhile, Dionne Maycock suggested that there was need for more public education on republicanism.
“Barbadians don’t understand what it means to be a republic. That has not been taught to the public who are only sensitized to the English way,” Maycock said.
But while commending the new Governor General on her appointment, Maycock told Barbados TODAY she believed that the position was “a waste of time”.
“ I think we can try the republic way because if the role [of Governor General] is ceremonial and it has no power, to my mind what is the sense of having it?” Maycock asked.
Sharia Waterman also called for more national discussion on the benefits and the disadvantages of moving away from the British Queen as head of state.
“I think as time goes by we really need to assess the situation and see if the step to move to republic is the right one . . . . If we decide to move towards becoming a republic we need to make sure that the public understands the implications of doing that,” Waterman said.
It was just two years ago that Prime Minister Freundel Stuart had indicated that his Government would be moving away from “a monarchical system to a republican form of Government in the very near future”.
Addressing a gathering of ruling party supporters Stuart had argued that “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,” the Prime Minister had said.
However, based on today’s swearing in of yet another Governor General it is now obvious that this plan has changed even though the Prime Minister has not provided the country with any form of explanation.