A leading political scientist believes that Barbados’ decision to transition to a Parliamentary Republic in the coming weeks could possibly encourage other countries in the region to follow suit.
Dr Tennyson Joseph, head of the Department of Government, Sociology and Social Work at the University of West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, said while the move to a republic had been on the agenda of several countries in the Caribbean in the past, he expected a higher level of interest to be paid in those jurisdictions following Barbados’ commitment.
He made the comments while speaking on a webinar yesterday entitled Barbados Entering the Republican Age: History, Implications and a Look to the Future hosted by the Simon Bolivar Institute for Peace and Solidarity among the People.
Dr Joseph pointed to the fact that Dominica, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago were the only countries in the English-speaking Caribbean that had taken the steps to become a republic.
He said in St Lucia the proposal to become a Republic had not yet reached the stage of implementation while in the cases of St Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada the proposals were defeated in public referendums.
“What we can say is that the decision by Barbados should have and might have and may have effects in other English-speaking Caribbean countries. I suggest it will reopen the dialogue on republicanism in those countries that have put the decision on hold due to earlier setbacks or out of a sense of political timing,” Dr Joseph noted.
“The decision by Barbados to do it by a simple act of Parliament using its two-thirds majority, without the use of referendum or other politically divisive methods has provided the other Caribbean governments with an example of an easy path to Republicanism.
“I would like to propose that it is very likely that the time has come when other Caribbean governments will begin the process of formally moving to republican status and to removing the British Monarch as their head of state. With Barbados largely regarded as the “Little England” of the Caribbean, making the move to republican status and doing so without any major external and internal opposition to the process, then the stage and example have been set for other Caribbean governments who have explored a similar initiative, to do so with a simple act of parliament,” Dr Joseph added.
However, he admitted that any potential move was dependent on the internal dynamics of these countries, the political will of elected politicians to give effect to manifesto and constitutional promises, the electoral balance of forces in those countries, the presence of progressive and committed prime ministers and the level of public support or rather lack of opposition to the move.
Dr Joseph said Barbados’ move to a republic was also a telling sign of England’s decline of power and influence in the Caribbean.
“It is also the case that the move to republicanism in Barbados is taking place against a background of declining British power in the region. While it is true that British decline in the Caribbean region has long been a process in formation, it has taken a very long time for the English-speaking Caribbean governments to fully begin the process of adjusting their foreign relations and their internal political systems to the reality of the decline of British political power in the region,” he pointed out.
“The shift in global power with the rise of China along with the gradual decline in British power, has seen the reduction in importance of the Commonwealth and the general diminution of the British connection in Caribbean political and economic life.”
Dr Joseph also contended that the transition was part of the process of leaders and people in the Caribbean coming to terms with the history of their colonialization and slavery.
Venezuela Deputy Foreign Ministers Carlos Ron and Raul Li Causi both lauded Prime Minister Mia Mottley and Government for its vision in transitioning to a republic.