Is Barbados’ fight to become a republic nearly over?
— 2 minute read — By Derry Salter
On 15th September, Barbados announced its aim to become a republic, consequently removing Queen Elizabeth II as the head of state. Barbados’ intention was laid out by Governor-General Sandra Mason, Queen Elizabeth’s official representative in Barbados, during the ‘Throne Speech’ in the opening of the Barbados parliament. It is said that Barbados will become a republic on November 30th 2021, giving the country just over a year to put in place preparations. Barbados will be the fourth former British colony in the Caribbean to follow suit and reform as a republic; Guyana took the first step in 1970 with Trinidad and Tobago shortly following in 1976 and lastly Dominica in 1978.
Although Barbados gained independence from Britain in 1966, Queen Elizabeth has remained its constitutional monarch. Since 1966, Barbados has transformed from a struggling island dependent solely on its sugar exports to a prosperous thriving country augmented by tourism. The debate of becoming a republic has been a cause for discussion for over five decades; so why has Barbados decided now is the right time to remove the Crown?
This is not the first time that Barbados has voiced its intention to become a republic. In 1998, a constitutional review proposed that Barbados should disassociate itself with the British monarchy and rather become a republic. Yet this time, Barbados appear more determined to lose all association with the British Crown. It is clear that the government of Barbados see the country as fully capable of becoming a republic, with Prime Minister, Mia Mottley, citing Barbadians’ wish to “leave [their] colonial past behind” as the predominant reason to step away from the British monarchy. Furthermore, the current global social climate sheds light on Barbados’ decision to sever ties with the British Crown. There is no doubt that the political pressure sparked by the Black Lives Matter movement could have engineered this move.
Buckingham Palace officials appear to be rather supportive of Barbados’ intention, accepting that the decision was a matter for Barbadian’s only, with Jonny Dymond, BBC Royal Correspondent, claiming that the idea was “not out of the blue”. A spokesman for the British Prime Minister stated that despite Barbados’ intent to step away from the British monarchy, Britain “will continue to have and enjoy a partnership with them as members of the Commonwealth”.
Despite the suggestion that peace between the two countries has been kept, Barbados’ decision to remove the British Crown due to its association with colonialism may pose a slight difficulty for the British monarchy and consequently create tension. A common global occurrence in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement is the removal of statues of slave traders; removing statues of Queen Elizabeth and dissociating from the Queen as head of state indicates that the British monarchy is being placed on par with the slave trade. Consequently, it is apparent that the British monarchy do not want such an association to occur.
It is clear that the time has come for Barbados to step free from the British monarchy and become a republic due to the country’s booming economy, with sociopolitical pressures from the Black Lives Matter movement only further encouraging this step. Yet it is vital for Britain that the country maintains close ties with Barbados, continuing a healthy partnership through the Commonwealth.