Governor General Dame Sandra Mason delivered the jaw dropping news yesterday as she delivered her Throne Speech at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, telling her audience that the time had come for Barbados to become self-governing, noting that the move to transition from a parliamentary constitutional monarchy under a hierarchy monarchy, to a Republic, would be realized before the island celebrated its 55th anniversary of independence on November 30, 2021.
“The peril and uncertainty of the times compel us to reinforce our foundation. Equally, we are challenged to shore up our traditional structures and find stronger, more resilient, more sustainable architecture, on which we can build a modern and enduring structure for current and future generations,” Dame Sandra said.
“Barbados has developed governance structures and institutions that mark us as what has been described as, ‘the best governed black society in the world’.
“Since Independence, we Barbadians have sought constantly to improve our systems of law and governance so as to ensure they best reflect our characteristics and values as a nation.
“Barbados’ first Prime Minister, The Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow, cautioned against loitering on colonial premises. That warning is as relevant today as it was in 1966. Having attained Independence over half a century ago, our country can be in no doubt about its capacity for self-governance.
“The time has come to fully leave our colonial past behind. Barbadians want a Barbadian Head of State. This is the ultimate statement of confidence in who we are and what we are capable of achieving. Hence, Barbados will take the next logical step toward full sovereignty and become a Republic by the time we celebrate our 55th anniversary of Independence,” the Governor General added.
The idea of Barbados becoming a Republic resulted in the establishment of the Cox Commission on the Constitution in 1979, which was charged with studying the feasibility of introducing a republican system.
The commission concluded that Barbadians preferred to maintain the constitutional monarchy and therefore the proposal to move to republican status was not pursued.
In 1996, a Constitution Review Commission, headed by Sir Henry Forde, was appointed to review the country’s Constitution. That commission recommended that Barbados adopt a Parliamentary republic system.
A Referendum Bill was introduced in Parliament and had its first reading on October 10, 2000. With the dissolution of Parliament just prior to the elections in 2003, the bill was not carried over.
Other Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean such as Jamaica have from time to time discussed the matter with a measure of political trepidation.
Both political parties the PNP and the JLP have been “tip toeing” around the subject afraid to call the referendum to get the needed constitutional requirement, despite the fact that the majority of Jamaicans would welcome the freedom from Britain.
Sister CARICOM countries Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago have republican forms of government. While the Cooperative Republic of Guyana has aa administrative President as Head of State, Trinidad and Tobago has a ceremonial president as Head of State. They remainl members of the Commonwealth.
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