Barbados takes steps to become a Republic
Date: Wednesday, January 26 @ 09:13:10 UTC
By George Alleyne, newsday.co.tt
Barbados, long regarded as the most conservative of Britain's former Caribbean colonies, will have pleased many in the Region with the announcement by its Prime Minister, Owen Arthur, of a planned move to become a Republic and replace the Queen of England as its Head of State. The news, together with the around the corner formal acceptance of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to replace the Privy Council as the country's final Court of Appeal, places Barbados firmly ahead of Trinidad and Tobago which, while it has been a Republic since 1976, still sees some childishly fretting over whether it should break with the Privy Council, a relic of its colonial past. Or more to the point whether they will allow it to pursue this course.
Barbados' move, particularly because of the grip on the thinking of the society by the old planter class, would have been unthinkable even when the country achieved Independence in 1966. The bulk of the country's population, although of African slave ancestry, had held on stubbornly to the "links" with the "Mother Country" which have today been placed sharply in question with the new perspective forged by the decision of the Government of Prime Minister Owen Arthur to seek Republican status for Barbados. If Sir Grantley Adams, late Head of Government, had stoutly defended British colonial rule at the International Labour Organisation Conference in Paris in 1947, Barbados' Prime Minister Owen Arthur would seek a complete breakaway today from those old colonial ties.
If the late Sir Conrad Reeves, a former Chief Justice of Barbados, in the island's House of Assembly on February 9, 1876, could speak with unconcealed pride of the ties with the "mother country", Barbados today wishes to chart its own course, utilising the best in the models of the past. Reeves, incidentally, was the son of a slave. What Prime Minister Owen Arthur understands and this, too, is clearly the view of this country's Prime Minister Patrick Manning and that of Jamaica's Prime Minister, PJ Patterson, is that Caricom countries cannot claim on one hand to be 100 percent Independent while on the other hold on to instititutions which say to the world we are not. Guyana led the way in becoming a Republic. When Barbados shrugs off the humbug of having the Queen as the Head of State, which Trinidad and Tobago did 19 years ago this year, it will be Jamaica's turn. Prime Minister Patterson has promised that the critical step will be taken by Jamaica before the elections constitutionally due in 2007.
This is not to say that becoming Republics will be the final act on the journey. What is necessary is both the establishing of the Caribbean Court of Justice and the nurturing of the feeling deep down inside that our Caribbean judges are equal to the best that the United Kingdom, indeed any country, has to offer. If we hold otherwise then what we proclaim to the world is that we as a people accept ourselves to be inferior. And this is an absurdity. In 1823, the leaders of the celebrated slave revolt in Guyana could say with confidence to those who would keep them in bondage that they wanted "unconditional emancipation," Page 205, Capitalism and Slavery, Dr Eric Williams. Today, more than 180 years later, there are those who would deny this country its right to unconditional Independence.
There are those who shamelessly infer that we are not yet ready for it, and shamelessly prostrate themselves before the British Raj and say: "Yes Massa, we know that no one is better than you and we have complete faith in you." They block not only the right of progressive people in the country to be in full control of their affairs, but the right of even their own children and followers to walk with heads held high and proud. Theirs is not the game playing which preceded this country's winning of political Independence in 1962. Those who would command the clock of freedom to stand still and reverse at this moment in history deny me and my children and my children's children the full meaning of what slaves in Guyana demanded almost two centuries ago. What is even more shameful is that on more than one occasion there have been signals from the Privy Council that it wished us to proceed on our way.
In turn, and tied to the creating of the Caribbean Court of Justice, is the continued opposition of the misguided few who are not prepared, even in rapidly encroaching globalisation, to allow for the establishment of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy. The Region desperately needs this to allow for the free movement of goods, services and capital in a reasonably protected environment to stave off the choking of Caricom economies that will come unless we set up the foundation for it (this environment). Yet there is opposition for opposition's sake and pride and unconditional Independence be damned.