A year and a half after the Barbados Labour Party assumed full control of Parliament, giving it the power to change the Constitution for Barbados to become a republic, a former member of the ruling party – now Leader of the Opposition – has broached the subject on the floor of the House of Assembly.
But the Prime Minister shot down the suggestion – for now, saying that the Government’s priority is to fix the economy and that the administration was too strapped for cash to afford the trappings of a republic.
Bishop Joseph Atherley has called on the Mottley Government to use its overwhelming mandate to move Barbados swiftly along to becoming a Republican state.
He reminded his former Labour colleagues that because of the overwhelming mandate they were given, now is the time to act.
He declared: “It is this Government that must and I hope will lead us in that direction.
“A 30-nil hand gives this Government a tremendous mandate to at least put the issue to the people of Barbados.
“You have the legal authority to address constitutional reform and change in significant ways.
“This Government must not lack the fortitude so to do.”
Atherley sparked a side-debate as lawmakers approved a new national honour – the Order of Freedom of Barbados – through a bill in the Lower House today.
“Barbadians at home and abroad who have served this country well and our people generally who have served humanity in ways that we value highly in keeping with Barbadian traditions and aspirations.
“But we seem a bit ambivalent and have not come to the place where we have determined to deal with the matter of our constitutional and political status vice versa republicanism.”
But rising on a point of order, Prime Minister Mia Mottley declared that Government’s priority is stabilising the economy. She said she was not prepared to go to the public to start a conversation on the topic since the country was not in a position to see the task through financially.
Mottley described such a change as costly.
“First we have to look at things like the Royal Barbados Police Force… Her Majesty’s Prison. You are talking about changing uniforms, stationery, etcetera. It will be an extremely costly undertaking which Government simply cannot do at this time.”
But Atherley said the time had come for Barbadians to be brought face to face with doing away with what he described as colonial ideals.
He said: “It seems to me that we are ambivalent about what to do about our constitutional DNA.
“By that I mean we have treated to the matter of the Privy Council and the last honourable member spoke to that.
“We have fully subscribed to the CCJ.”
The MP continued: “We baulk perhaps at the thought of taking that step.
“This step we take today is a significant one when we broke the arrangements with the Privy Council and subscribed to the CCJ we took another significant step.
“Barbadians must be brought face to face with a discussion on the political/constitutional status to which we aspire and the one we consider to be most ideal.”