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 Grenville Phillips II
Supporters of Barbados becoming a Republic are flooding our televisions, radios, newspapers and social media, claiming that all right-thinking Barbadians want a Barbadian head of state. They insist that a referendum is not necessary.
These supporters claim that referendums do not work, since the Australians and Grenadians voted to reject republicanism. The truth is that the referenda worked. A referendum measures the will of the people, not the desire of radical activists or the opinions of pollsters.
Perhaps the main hesitancy with Barbados becoming a Republic, is that the Government appears to only accept the advice of our most extreme radical activists. Such radicals only speak of tearing down, destroying, and bankrupting Barbados in pursuing unreachable utopias. They are also allowed to spread misinformation unchallenged.
Republican Benefit They tell us that Republicanism will improve our selfesteem, since we will no longer have to swear allegiance to the Queen. Barbadians generally do not swear allegiance to the Queen. In 1966, we became citizens of an independent Barbados, with our own Barbadian passports, national anthem, coat of arms, and flag. The colonial era ended, and the colonial office in Barbados was closed.
We do not pledge allegiance to Britain, but to our country Barbados and to our flag. We pledge to uphold and defend their honour, and by our behaviour, do credit to Barbados – not Britain. We have the same independent vote in international associations as Britain. We independently vote, and independently negotiate trade treaties, for Barbados’ benefit – not Britain’s.
Low Self-Esteem Any low self-esteem among Barbadians is of our own making. It is rooted in a secondary school curriculum that only benefits about 20 per cent of our students, and economic policies that keep most Barbadians living in a hand-to mouth, pay-cheque to pay-cheque, house-poor poverty.
Our extreme radicals want us to excuse our politicians for their failings. Instead, they insist that we must blame the Queen – including for the high incidents of non-communicable diseases. The truth is that all these things are entirely within our political control.
Swearing Allegiance to the Queen All Barbadians pledge allegiance to Barbados. However, our politicians must swear allegiance to the Queen – to keep them accountable. This is important.
Barbadian voters have come to accept that Barbadian politicians are not accountable to them, and their promises should not be relied upon. The Auditor General’s annual reports support this assertion. However, all Barbadians benefit from the accountability they must demonstrate to the Queen, which is their only restraint.
Promises made to a ceremonial Barbadian head of state will likely be meaningless, because breaking those promises carry no material consequences. They appear to be less inclined to break promises to the Queen’s representative.
Exposed Britain is obligated to support the people of Barbados in our time of greatest need, because we are a former colony. The only premium we pay for this insurance, is to maintain a Governor General, who decides when the threat of harm is sufficient to activate the insurance.
When we become a Republic, we will automatically cancel this insurance, which will likely be a relief for the British taxpaying public.
However, we will be exposed. The Barbadian public deserves to know how this exposure will be addressed, and at what cost, before we become a Republic.
The Forde Commission warned Barbadians of the real risk of what it called “Prime Ministerial Dictatorship” in a Republic. Therefore, the public deserves to know how this risk will be addressed, and it must be addressed before the current restraints are removed.
Irresponsible Advisors Guided by their reckless end-justifies-the-means philosophy, our radical activists are pushing our Prime Minister down a road of potential international embarrassment.
Before publicly announcing a date for a Republic, our Prime Minister’s advisors should have told her whether the Constitution allows her 30-0 majority to force us into a Republic. Section 49 allows Parliament to alter our Constitution. However, there is a limit.
So Far And No Further “Subsection (2) shall not apply to a Bill in so far as it alters any of the provisions specified in that subsection for the purpose of giving effect to arrangements for the federation or union of Barbados with any other part of the Commonwealth or for the establishment of some other form of constitutional association between Barbados and any other part of the Commonwealth.” The Constitution of Barbados, Section 49 (3).
If we want to become a Republic, then we should not simply announce it. In responding to news reports that our Government plans to make us a Republic, the Queen responded that any such decision (to cancel the people’s insurance), requires the consent of both the Government and the public of Barbados.
The Government has given its consent. The peoples’ consent is measured by a referendum.
Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer. He can be reached at [email protected]