Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by this author are their own and do not represent the official position of the Barbados TODAY Inc.
by John Goddard
I have always supported a move to Republican status for Barbados; in fact, on reflection, I think that Independence should have been accompanied by the country being a Republic.
However, I have great difficulty with the way in which the present decision to seek the change to Republicanism is to be implemented.
I keep hearing that government should govern, but millions of dollars have been spent educating the citizenry, and it is my view that Barbadians should be involved in rigorous discussion on such a fundamental issue.
It certainly is not acceptable for a Government to use its dominance in parliament to announce the type of Republic it wants, as well as the date, without any consultation with the people who have to live with the new system of governance.
Where is the promise to involve citizens in decision-making? Have the Covenant of Hope and the 2018 manifesto been abandoned? The irony is that the climate for Republicanism is far less hostile than that surrounding Independence in 1966.
I was a schoolboy in that year, but I can recall the abundance of discussion and even rancour before the question of Independence for Barbados was taken to the British government.
So, why are we not being allowed to make an input into the plan for Republican status? It can’t be that the government feels that the majority of Bajans are opposed to the island becoming a Republic!
It is interesting, to say the least, that having set up a committee to make recommendations for the transition to a Republic, Government now declares that its brand of Republic is to be based on the Forde report of at least two decades ago.
Why waste the time of Ms Marion Williams and her Committee members if you have already settled on the type of Republic the country is to have?
Has the Committee sent in even a preliminary report endorsing the Forde recommendations? We don’t know because, in keeping with this administration’s tendency to keep matters of the state close to its chest, we have not been told.
Another issue is the choice of date. I refuse to believe that November 30th has been chosen to diminish the significance of Independence Day.
Will future celebrations centre on Republic Day at the expense of Independence Day? Just asking! Had there been consultation, we might have seen a different day chosen, the number of Bank Holidays, notwithstanding.
Government seemed to be in a great hurry to have Republic Day signed, sealed and delivered, regardless of what concerns the populace may have. In so doing, it may well be creating division on an issue which should unify us.
I now wish to touch briefly on the question of mandatory vaccination. I have been fully vaccinated, but that does not prevent me from being sympathetic to people who are hesitant. There is confusion even in the scientific community regarding the efficacy of COVID vaccines, and I am not referring to silly conspiracy theories.
On balance, I think Barbadians should take the vaccine, but I do not support any attempt to threaten the livelihood of workers who choose not to do so. We have to be very careful what we mandate in a democracy.
Persuasion, with the health professionals leading a stepped-up fight, is less dictatorial and contentious and likely to yield better results than a political heavy-handed approach.
It is not too late for Government to take the views and feelings of citizens seriously and alter its course in regard to both the Republic and vaccinations.
John Goddard, retired but always an educator.