While Barbadians support the island’s transition to a republic, many still do not understand what it truly means, according to recent research on the issue.
Residents’ lack of constitutional and legal understanding of the move was highlighted on Sunday, after researchers from the University of the West Indies (UWI) Cave Hill Campus, in collaboration with The University of London and the Institute of the Americas, presented their findings from the National Republicanism vs Monarchy Survey which was carried out among 500 residents from every parish and social background, between October 23 and November 10.
The findings pointed to a slim majority of Barbadians being fully supportive of the island becoming a republic, according to Professor of Management and Organisational Behaviour in the Department of Management Studies at the University of the West Indies, Dwayne Devonish.
“What we found, interestingly, is that 1 in 3 Barbadians were ready to be supportive of Barbados being a republic. When we look at this data, you can clearly see that the 34 per cent is not an absolute majority, it’s not more than half the sample, but it is indeed a relative majority,” he said.
“Interestingly, the option of either ‘I’m satisfied with Barbados as either a republic or monarchy status is fine for me’, if you look at that middle bar, you are having a competitive 30 per cent roughly of Barbadians who are pretty much indifferent, in the sense that whether Barbados remains a constitutional monarchy or if it moves to a republic it’s fine for them.”
In addition, Professor Devonish said that though a good number of the respondents did not show an overwhelming interest in the island becoming a republic, the same could not be said on the subject of head of state. A vast majority of those interviewed felt very strongly that the head of state should be a Barbadian elected by the people.
“Even though we might argue that it may be sufficient to find out if Barbadians are happy to become a republic, we wanted to drill down to find out exactly how they feel about having their own president or head of state…. There is a stronger sentiment on these types of issues, because you can see here 51 per cent of our sample indicated that ‘yes, we want an elected or selected head or president in the country’.
“The Queen staying as a head of state only garnered 12 per cent at best, so you can see there it is not a popular sentiment for Barbados to the Queen being retained as the head of state,” Professor Devonish added.
Cynthia Barrow-Giles, a professor of constitutional governance and politics at the Cave Hill campus, was one of the main researchers. She said most Barbadians remained neutral in their beliefs on whether the island would benefit from a change from the monarchy, but still generally agreed that a change would not be a wrong move to make.
“We asked the respondents further, whether or not they believed that the transition to a republic would impact Barbados and in what way it would impact Barbados. What we see here is that the absolute majority of the respondents, nearly 66 per cent of them, were very neutral.
“They were not enthusiastic about whether or not it would have a negative or positive impact on Barbados, but what we do see is that 21 per cent of those we interviewed, felt that there would be a positive impact on the transition,” she explained.
What became clear from the data, however, was that Barbadians generally lacked understanding about what a parliamentary republic really meant for them.
As such, the researchers said, a more intense campaign to educate the public on the issue is needed before future significant changes are made to the constitution. (SB)