An independent committee will be appointed to look into how Barbados should fittingly observe its new republican status while keeping the significance of Independence Day intact.
That disclosure came Wednesday from Prime Minister Mia Mottley who again responded to the strong public backlash her administration faced for its initial decision to observe November 30 as Barbados National Day to incorporate celebrations for Independence Day and the anniversary of the country’s transition to a republic.
“There are realities to some of the things that some people have recommended, and the Government is going to therefore appoint an independent committee to review these matters and report back to us,” she said during the St Michael Speaks town hall meeting at the Springer Memorial Secondary School.
The Prime Minister did not give any indication of the size or composition of the committee, or when it would be established. However, she said it was anticipated that the result of that body’s work should be seen sometime next year.
In announcing the reversal of the name change earlier this month, Minister of Home Affairs and Information Wilfred Abrahams said Cabinet had decided there would be “a national consultation to come up with the most fitting way to celebrate our transition to a parliamentary republic”.
Mottley said on Wednesday that the divisive nature of the issue necessitated the creation of an independent committee.
“Because this has become the subject of divisive commentary the Government paused, because the one thing that that day must not be – the day that defines Barbados’ journey for freedom from universal adult suffrage to independence to republic – … is divisive,” she said.
While some Barbadians have suggested a separate holiday to mark the country’s transition to a republic on November 30, 2021, Mottley expressed caution about such a move, given the financial implications it could have on some businesses that are already struggling.
“Every time we talk about a bank holiday, there are consequences to it…. The reality is that our businesses in a lot of the areas of this country are already on the margins, some of them, in terms of trying to survive,” she pointed out.
The Prime Minister pleaded with Barbadians not to lose sight of the matter at hand, and contended that though partisan undertones have clouded the issue, the importance of the country’s growth into republic status is one that should not be downplayed.
“We need to be able to settle ourselves and reach a point where all of us as Barbadians can reflect what is in the national interest of all in a way that does not have the partisan undertones that, regrettably, we may otherwise see others wanting to promote. That is why the Government paused, because the only thing that matters to us is ensuring that we are in a position to take the shackles of colonialism, exploitation, and oppression off of us,” Prime Minister Mottley declared.
“We are conscious that it is not going to happen simply because we changed a law or because we established a day. If we accept this as a journey and a continuum, then we need to begin to understand that labels ought not to consume us, but the substance of what we are trying to do ought to be the mission that each of us is involved in and committed to.”
After the Independence Day name change was announced and residents used social media to express their opposition, the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) started mobilising a movement against the decision with a planned protest march and an online petition that quickly gathered signatures.
As recently as Wednesday, the party said it remained ready to fight any move to go that route again.