Former Opposition Leader Bishop Joseph Atherley believes Barbadians should have a say in renaming Independence Day.
He insisted that the since-reversed decision to change the name to Barbados National Day should not have been made in the absence of public consultation.
Late Wednesday, a day after announcing that Cabinet had agreed November 30 would be observed as Barbados National Day from this year, Minister of Home Affairs and Information Wilfred Abrahams issued a statement saying that the move would be put on hold as this was not the right time for the change.
The about-turn followed public backlash and a petition and weekend protest march planned by the Democratic Labour Party.
“I hope the Government takes this very seriously. This should have never been a Cabinet decision alone and in itself should have been a wider consultative process than that. But to the extent that the Cabinet did decide that and it was announced, I hope that they go beyond that and forget about the change of the name Independence Day to Barbados National Day,” Bishop Atherley said.
“If you want to celebrate the whole event and the notion of us having our own and first Head of State in the person of Her Excellence Most Honourable Dame Sandra Mason, find another day to do that.”
In fact, the leader of the People’s Party for Democracy and Development (PDP) said the idea of a Barbados National Day was vague and did not resonate with Barbadians.
“This whole business of the impact that it is likely to have on the national mindset as far as celebrating Independence is concerned is a serious consideration. My view is that Independence is the lived reality.
“It is the lived reality in the context that helps us to shape the pursuit of our potential achievements. It is the lived reality in the context that helps us to express our aspirations with the national community and pass on or transmit those aspirations to the younger generations or generations coming behind us, as we seek to build out this whole concept and construct of nationhood,” he said.
With Minister Abrahams explaining that the reason for the name change was to combine celebrations for Independence Day and the anniversary of the country’s transition to a republic, which both fall on November 30, the former Opposition Leader said the Government should be mindful that the destination of the republic is a constitutional status.
He said Barbados becoming an independent nation in 1966 should take higher priority in terms of national focus and celebration.
“Yes, we can celebrate Republic Day if we want but, as I said from since last year, if we are going to do that it should be a separate day from Independence Day. We have to be guarded against any potential danger of eroding the legacy of former Prime Minister Errol Walton Barrow and all of those who fought for or led us in the march to independence.
“We don’t want to be looking to erase history or the legacy of those people and I hope that is not the intention. But if we go this road as proposed by this Barbados National Day there is potentially the danger of that becoming the case,” Bishop Atherley said.
He added: “If you want to celebrate President’s Day, find another day, not on Independence Day…. You are doing some injury to history and to the events surrounding that and to the personalities involved. And I think you are introducing a strong element of vagueness when you talk about Barbados National Day. And you are doing this in a context where you have not had the widest possible consultation. Barbadians, wherever they are represented, whatever association they are identified with, need to be clear that there is a strong sentiment against any proposal to change Independence Day to Barbados National Day.”
While announcing the reversal of the decision, Minister Abrahams had indicated that a name change would be needed in the future.
“At some point, we must come up with a suitable way to collectively craft a meaningful and celebratory way to honour these two most significant achievements in our nation’s history…. But it is also clear that now is not the time,” he said.