Like Guyanese did back in late May, Barbadians will on Nov. 30th celebrate 50 years of independence from Britain with a string of celebratory events including an appearance from native pop star Rihanna, but the island’s administration remains under severe pressure to demolish a political system that still allows Britain’s Queen Elizabeth to be its head of state.
As thousands prepare to descend on the Eastern Caribbean island nation from the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. among other destinations, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has once again made a solemn promise to ensure that a white, English great grandmother in faraway London will soon be replaced by a local person of standing when authorities dismantle the near 400 years monarchial system of governance which has kept Her Royal Highness as the head of state.
But like he has done on several occasions, Stuart has once again refused to give details or set in train a date to follow Guyana, tiny Dominica, and Trinidad in becoming a republic with a local president. He says only that the process will be completed in the very near future.
“The Right Excellent Errol Barrow decolonized the politics. Owen Arthur decolonized the jurisprudence and Freundel Stuart is going to complete the process,” the leader vowed this week. “While we respect the Queen as head of the Commonwealth and accept that she and all of her successors will continue to be at the apex of our political understanding in terms of Barbados’ constitutional status, we have to move from a monarchical system to a republican form of government in the very near future”.
Pressure to delink from London has been mounting on the head of government and not surprisingly sometimes, comes from inside his own cabinet.
For example, International Business Minister Donville Inniss said this week that the time has long passed for her to be replaced by a local and those who fear a backlash from English tourist should cease worrying about this as few concern themselves with such issues while on holidays.
“There’re those who say that if you do that the British are going to stop coming here. I have never met anybody from the U.K. who concerns themselves with whether the Queen is head of state of Barbados or if we’re republic with our own president. That is simply not the case,” he said during a debate in parliament. He wants the entire process to be wrapped up in a year’s time.
The island has already taken baby steps to become a republic when it ditched the London appeals court as its final, taking cases to the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Appeal instead. A local head of state would complete the decolonization process many argue.
In the meantime, Stuart has another jubilee issue related to public expenditure for the jubilee celebrations.
The price tag so far has been put at a meager $3.5M but Stuart has been forced to defend this as not being excessive.
“I cast my bucket down right there on that argument. We will never again have an opportunity to celebrate a golden jubilee of this country’s Independence. This is the moment and that is why we are doing it. So far as the funds allocated for the celebrations are concerned, I accept full responsibility for it.”
Opposition attacks about spending have come in the context of a touch economic austerity period that the island has been experience in recent years. Dozens of state workers have been retrenched, authorities are doing all they can to avoid a devaluation of the dollar (US1-Bds-2) and to avoid getting into an IMF program like Guyana, Jamaica, and Suriname among others.