A respected retired academic fears the historical significance of the coming transition to a republic could be partially undermined by Government’s failure to thoroughly educate the masses on the significance of the move.
Professor Pedro Welch also believes that apart from the political significance of the transition, the period will also be remembered as one of indifference from a population, much unlike the celebratory mood that existed at independence in 1966.
“The historical significance is already laid. The thing is fait accompli. It will happen and historically, it will be recorded in the history books. What will be missing from the history books is a sense of the vox populi. In other words, the voice of the people,” Professor Welch told Barbados TODAY.
The former University of the West Indies lecturer declared that the resounding political mandate does not absolve the country’s leaders of a deep responsibility to “take the masses fully into your confidence and develop a process by which they will become more knowledgeable”.
He declared that with just under 72 hours remaining under the cloak of the British Monarchy, virtually every discussion on the importance of the transition lacked a “deep educational thrust” and “floated over the heads of the broad masses of people”.
“We are moving towards a republic, but there is a lot of apathy, people are in fact not interested. Some are apprehensive, and the apprehension comes, not because there is anything wrong with being a republic; the apprehension comes because people are ignorant of what it means. You could have told the people in the language that they understand,” Professor Welch stated.
“We should have had multiple songs, we should have had competitions for calypsonians and folk singers dealing with the theme of a republic, so that by the time you get to it, it is in the popular mind. It is probably very late to go back to that now, but that is where we ought to have begun and every administration, whether BLP or DLP missed the opportunity to engage in a deep educational thrust to explain fully to the people what we are getting into,” the historian added.
According to Professor Welch, the high levels of apathy are being further compounded by a “preoccupation” with the country’s COVID-19 situation and the impact of economic hardships associated with it.
“The people’s minds are simply not on the question of a republic. The people’s minds are on day-to-day issues. What are we going to eat tomorrow? How are we going to make a living if we lose our jobs. Those are the issues that occupy people’s minds,” he said.
At a Global Town Hall Meeting for Barbadians Living in the Diaspora held earlier this week, Prime Minister Mia Mottley defended her decision to forgo a referendum by stating that every administration since 1998 had promised in their election manifestos to make the transition.
Professor Welch however responded: “Do you remember what is in any manifesto that the various parties put before us over the last few years? Most of them can’t remember what is said specifically in manifestos though they are useful and nice for elections. But whatever the various parts said, the fact remains that a process of education is required.” [email protected]