With Barbados having ushered in a new republican government, one historian and several political scientists hold mixed views on the impact the break with the monarchy will have on this island.
Outspoken historian Trevor Marshall believes that future generations will face challenges trying to determine which of the two national events is more important – Republic Day or Independence Day.
“But Miss Mottley [Prime Minister Mia Mottley] has, like a chess game, put her castle out there, and can you defeat it? She has piggy-backed on Mr Barrow’s [late Prime Minister Errol Barrow] achievements and, therefore, the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) administration has now come to terms with the question of independence. She has endorsed independence, but she has also put her own spin that from now on it will be Republic Day,” Marshall declared.
He is also of the view that in time to come, “Barrow’s Independence” will be subordinated to “Mottley’s Republicanism”.
Marshall also forecasts that, in the future, Prime Minister Mottley will be recognized as the Mother of Republicanism.
“But I also think she is not only being politically cunning or astute or being a political animal, that the seizing of the rightful status of a republic was on the cards for the last 25 years,” he said.
“This is what Miss Mottley wants as her political legacy – that she is the Mother of Republicanism. And the point must be made that future generations, 20 years from now, 30 years from now, they will think of this as Republic Day and not Independence Day.
“No matter how much it is said that it is Independence Day and we will not have a big hullabaloo about it, that both sides of the political coin will see it as a day to be remembered. It is a day of Barbados assuming its status as a full adult, constitutionally,” added Marshall.
Marshall argued that those who hang on to Barrow’s achievement of independence can celebrate it as such and those who swear allegiance to the BLP can now gain equal “sustenance” and satisfaction from the fact that they are associated with November 30.
The noted historian said if he were Prime Minister Mottley’s advisor, he would suggest celebrating Republic Day on January 1, which is already a holiday and is only known as New Year’s Day.
Under a future republican system of governance, Marshall does not contemplate Barbadians having any deeper nationalistic pride, generally.
He suggested that Barbadians have merely substituted the British cultural master for North America’s.
He said the sense of nationalism in Barbados has reached a plateau and while he thinks that will continue, he does not expect any radical changes with the transition to republican status.
“The high point of nationalism came in 1966. We showed the ephemerals of nationalism – the buntings, the flags, the Independence Parade, the devotion of November to things Barbadian; and that will continue,” Marshall said.
“As for any dramatic examples or interpretation or highlights of nationalism, I think we have reached a plateau level —that is, it is neither dramatic nor spectacular any longer, but it is what we expect.”
The history teacher does not see the nationalistic fervour which only emerges in November, or perhaps Crop Over, changing significantly under the new system of government.
“So, there is still work to be done, and under the Republic, perhaps our cultural avatars, cultural tsars in the NCF [National Cultural Foundation] and elsewhere, will try to bring that nationalism beyond the plateau that it is and make it the high point of our presence as a nation.”
Political scientist Dr George Belle outlined three areas in which he thinks Barbadians are being impacted by the transition to republican status.
He cited a lack of understanding regarding the basis of what a republic is all about as one point. The retired Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at The University of the West Indies Cave Hill campus also expects that those Barbadians who are uneducated about the new system may be persuaded in one way or another by those who use that lack of understanding to draw attention to themselves for future gain.
“And then there is the raw political manipulation coming from partisan instinct, where, if one side has proposed something, the other side wants to oppose it with the hope that some negativity will come from it and they would gain on the basis of the future political competitiveness,” the political scientist told Barbados TODAY.
He said he did not think there was anything particularly profound about the requirements of republicanism.
The senior political scientist said that Mottley, being a part of that “whole” assertiveness of the BLP post-1994 under the now late Prime Minister Owen Arthur, reenergized that initiative to go for a stronger statement on independence, “which is all that republicanism is”.
“To that extent, she goes for the actual date of independence as well because there is no contradiction in that. But … in the competitiveness for nationalism between the two parties, it would look like an attempt to diminish independence by the person identified as the Father of Independence, Errol Walton Barrow,” Dr Belle observed.
He also believes that there is no need for people to fuss about Independence Day celebrations or the day itself being diminished by the transition to a republic on the same day.
“If you keep the two things together all there is is a further assertion of sovereignty and self-determination; there is no need for any conflict. But I would think that in the historical eyes of people that there is something called Independence Day, I think then you should have something called Republic Day,” Dr Belle stated.
His UWI counterpart, Dr Kristina Hinds, is excited about the kind of Barbados ahead once the “right” choices are made from the various options available.
“It depends on which part in the road we choose. We have a lot of choices before us and if we make some good choices that help to uplift as many people as possible in the population that can help us with things like economic enfranchisement…
“….If we make some significant reforms to our education system so that people don’t feel they are useless by age 11 because of how they perform in a test or which school they have gone to, I think we can be a really innovative and exciting place to like,” the political scientist declared.
Conversely, she fears that if the “wrong fork in the road is taken” and the country continues business as usual, some harmful things await this nation on the horizon.
“I can see increasing crime, increasing disenchantment, mistrust that would cause this to be the kind of place I don’t necessarily want to live in,” she added.
Dr Hinds said while the road from independence 55 years ago to republican status in 2021 may have completed the independence “project”, there is still a lot more work to be done to bring greater social and economic benefits to Barbadians.
She can see citizens feeling a greater sense of inclusiveness with more radical changes to the constitution.
“We need to make some more substantial changes to our constitution and make some serious decisions about the best ways to govern Barbados. But I think it is a progressive step in our independence project,” Dr Hinds pointed out.
The political lecturer envisages a Barbados where citizens could get to see Senators being elected, but in a different way to how the parliamentary representatives are elected.
“So, for instance, if it is we want to continue with a first-past-the-post system at the constituency level in a general election, I am playing with the idea that we could use proportional representation as the basis on which we elect Senators,” she suggested.
Dr Hinds also foresees a Barbados where a proportion of the Senators reserved to represent societal groups.
She also thinks that the lives of Barbadians could be impacted in new ways if a future republic system of governance were to consider separating the legislators from the executive, as in the United States.
Political scientist Peter Wickham agrees with historian Marshall that Barbadians will eventually see Prime Minister Mottley as the Mother of Republicanism.
“It is difficult not to see her role in becoming a republic, but by saying she is the Mother of a Republic does not in any way make Errol Barrow any less significant as the Father of Independence,” he said.
Wickham believes that Barbados should celebrate Independence Day and Republic Day simultaneously on November 30.
“I do not like the idea of us having two separate days…a Republic Day as Trinidad and Tobago did and then creating a second public holiday…because I think the two days celebrate the same level of development and maturity and as a result, it makes a lot of sense to do the two together in a way that is tidy,” he contended.
He said any reflection of a much broader policy of nationalism in a future Republican Government would depend on the outcome of consultations in the coming year for a new Constitution.
“I don’t think there is any magic bullet that is going to go off on the 30th November relating to our nationalism. I do think, however, that moving in this direction gives us the opportunity to start to determine what kind of nation we want to build, where we want to go and so on,” declared the political scientist.
If Wickham had his way, the transition to a republic will result in many more statues being erected in Barbados.
“The idea of building statues and having them pop up all over the place, I think is a normal part of celebrating people that we are. I don’t agree that they should all be in Heroes Square,” he said.
He also believes the fact that Barbados now has its own Head of State should cause people to care a little more.
“In the context of what is happening now, I think it is something we should care about because it would mean that for the first time we would have a Head of State that will be Barbadian and that we would no longer be swearing allegiance to the Queen, her heirs and successors. I think that is something all Barbadians should take pride about,” Wickham suggested.