An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Our coming transition to republican status is a proud moment for our country. As has been acknowledged before, it is not a slight to Her Majesty, Her Family or the UK, for which we have tremendous respect, but rather represents the ultimate statement of confidence in ourselves and our boundless capacity. Our commemoration of this moment comes at a particularly challenging time for our nation and world, and is thus a much needed, refreshing respite from our collective adversity.

What does not inspire pride however are the attempts by some to sow confusion by exploiting information deficits. Much of the conversation which has ensued has underpinned the need for the reintroduction of the teaching of civics in our schools, not only to foster a greater sense of pride in nationhood but to furnish our citizens with the content necessary to interpret the structures of our great democracy. 

It was made quite clear by the Government for some time that the form of Republic which we would adopt would be that proposed by the Forde Commission, which is itself similar to the model used in Trinidad and Dominica, two countries which have not been negatively impacted by their decades under a republican form of government. Barbados will thus have a Parliamentary Republic, with executive power remaining unchanged in the hands of the Cabinet, and with a President, performing a similar role to that of our Governor General, in terms of being the symbolic embodiment of the State and an impartial constitutional figure above the fray of partisan politics. 

It was also equally clear that the proposed President would be appointed by an Electoral College, comprising the two Houses of Parliament, similar to the Trinidad model. While some may query why this person will not be directly elected by the populace, it would be ultimately undesirable for occupants of this high constitutional office, intended to be untainted by partisan politics, to have to jockey for popular support in a small society in which such contests would no doubt be mired by partisanship, thus diminishing the impartial stature of the office.

Some wonder too why the election of our Head of State will be left to Parliament. In the first instance, the proposed Electoral College is undoubtedly more democratic than the present, somewhat opaque system where the Governor-General is appointed by Her Majesty on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. In the second instance, we live in a representative democracy, in which political power is devolved by the people to Parliament at intervals, and so we must allow our government to govern and our legislature to legislate, jobs which we empower them to do. 

In respect of the Electoral College, it is regrettable that the leader of a political party would conflate our proposed system with the US Electoral College. Clearly, an electoral college comprising Members of Parliament and Senators, a system which has been highly successful in various countries, is not at all comparable to the ‘winner-take-all’ popular vote-motivated state delegations which comprise the US Electoral College and which has led to anomalies over the years. Those who aspire to high office ought not to exploit information deficits to divide, but rather contribute to efforts to unify our country.

Much has been made of the level of consultation on this proposed move. None can deny that the issue of becoming a republic has been one of the most talked about in our nation over the years. The matter has been investigated by two Commissions, with the Forde Commission comprehensively outlining how we might take this step, and a proposed Constitution was drafted, after extensive and exhaustive consultation by that Commission which spanned town hall meetings, written submissions, private audiences with civil society actors and even visits to the diaspora abroad. There could not be a more comprehensive conception of consultation. 

Clearly though, there will need to be some minor modifications which will no doubt be the subject of consultations over the next few months and beyond. The fact remains that all civil society actors support this move, as well as the overwhelming majority of the populace. To hold a referendum, which has a cost attached, in the midst of this consensus would be an inefficient use of resources at a time when government has more urgent calls on the public purse. 

Finally, combining Independence Day and Republic Day is wise, to avoid the productivity losses caused by a proliferation of bank holidays. Equally, to promote the inclusive celebration of all steps on our journey of nationhood, It may be wise to rename November 30, the Day of Nationhood or Barbados Day.

In sum, the time has long past for continued gymnastics over the decision to become a Republic. Clearly, the time has come, in large measure the overarching institutional frameworks are there ready to be operationalised, and so what remains is our collective conscious determination to grasp with both hands the command of our own destiny, as we seek to continually strengthen our democracy, of which the Republic is but one step. 

131 thoughts on “An Idea Whose Time Has Come

  1. @OG

    October 1996 – Governor General Sir Clifford Husbands appointed an advisory commission to examine, consider and inquire into the Constitution of Barbados and related laws and matters.

    December 1998 – The commissioners submitted their report to the Governor General. The report was laid in the House of Assembly and the Senate shortly before the dissolution of Parliament later that month.

    January 1999 – General Election took place.

  2. Older people often assume the end of the world is nigh. Maybe it is because the end of THEIR world is nigh. Probably can’t bear the thought of the world going on without them.

    Reminds me of a Q-Anon moving date for Trump’s return to the White House.

    I do not deal in “prophecies”, from Isaiah or otherwise. People have been entering empire names in Bible “prophecy” for centuries. If you believe the Bible, even the apostles and Paul thought the end was near.

    The world has been crazy from as far back as we can count.


    Read the history books! Or ask anybody who was alive and conscious in 1939. No need for history books for that one.

    “And around and around they go, and where they’ll stop NOONE KNOWS!”

    Barbados Turf Club old guy from the old time draw.

  3. David August 2, 2021 4:11 PM

    “There has been an embarrassing lack of information about the details of the proposed republic.”

    @DavidBU I will have to strongly agree with you on this. I think we “in the know” may not fully comprehend those “not in the know” lack of knowledge on the proposed republic. An education program SHOULD DEMYSTIFY and DEPOLITICIZE this issue!!!!!. I cannot see any person with understanding will say that they prefer the head of state being chosen by the British Monarchy as opposed to being chosen locally. That is why a referendum is HIGHLY absurd and just overcomplicates the issue.
    The point must be made that this change is not necessarily being antagonistic to the British monarchy or to citizens of the United Kingdom. As I stated before on this issue, the United Kingdom took steps to replace their empire with the Commonwealth approx 80 years ago. Our relationship with Britons and the Commonwealth should remain the same.

    I have been alive long enough to know that Bajan resist change even if it means hanging on to customs that are long past their usefulness. This is the most frustrating and most annoying aspect of Bajans that is stunting our advancement as a country. It is like watching an episode of HOARDERS. People hanging on to crap that has zero value to right thinking people, and the hoarder having some mental defect or emotional shock. Well, the “mental defect” of Bajans is 300 years of emasculation of our identity as black people under slavery. That is why we struggle to replace\remove the Common Entrance exam, want to debate on whether, after 22 years, to keep a statue of a racist in our Heroes Square, and now want to hold on to a constitutional monarchy where the monarch is not even Barbadian.

    I don’t see it as forcing an issue or doing it in haste. We have discussed this issue off and on for 50+ years, How long does it need to be to educate people that the new president will have the same power as the governor general??????

    The way I see it, ANY administration that has a 2/3 majority in govt in the modern era, SHOULD seek to become a republic and not be accused of politicizing the issue. We bajans do a lot of long talking but short on acting. We are wasting mental energy debating this issue that can be focused elsewhere.

  4. Belle: Republic initially a symbolic change

    IT’S MUCH ADO about nothing!
    That’s how political scientist Dr George Belle views much of the concerns about Government’s decision to make Barbados a republic on November 30, Independence Day.
    The retired University of the West Indies lecturer, who was a guest on Nation News’ State Of Our Nation podcast, said the transition to republican status was likely to be just a symbolic change in the initial phase, with the weightier issues such as constitutional reform scheduled for later down the road.
    He argued that when Barbadians wake up on December 1, 2021, everything will essentially be the same, with the exception of the queen of England no longer being the head of state.
    “What was there yesterday is going to be there tomorrow and that is why it is going to be an extremely simple transition. After this is done, we can look at anything down the road. The point is that if on November 30 we become a republic, on the day after the sun is going to be shining the same way; there is going to be no real big difference. However, there is still going to be a significance in that you have actually taken the step to start to look at your governance process,” said Belle.
    “What the Government is doing is turning the key in the lock and just easing open the door. We could either push the door open or keep it closed in determining whether you want governance reforms and to what degree. Remember that most countries that are moving from ground zero in a constitution to another, [that] really comes after political turmoil, which we are not going through. We are in a situation where
    we have governance procedures and practices well in place and there is no reason to get all excited and bubbly,” he said.
    Plenty of time
    Both Opposition Leader Joseph Atherley and Democratic Labour Party president Verla De Peiza have queried the need to make the move by November 30. Atherley said four months was hardly enough time for Barbadians to weigh in on critical issues such as a new constitution.
    However, Belle said there will be plenty of time for consultation on the Constitution after the transition to republic status.
    “We have precedence from the Independence Constitution, and we are following that in a very commonsense type of way because between now and November, there is no way that you can have any full-scale constitutional discussion. However, if we waited until we had a full constitutional discussion, we would probably wait another 50 years before you had any changes. So this is the way that we take the first step, a little step, a significant step, a symbolic step, a cultural step, but an important step.”

    Source: Nation

  5. Surprised at the steady trickle of articles on becoming a Republic. Most seem to be in support of becoming a republic and that a referendum is unnecessary.

    However, if you read the articles carefully, no persuasive argument (IMO) for becoming a republic. In fact, “we gotta do this now or it could be a few more decades in happening” is the main reason.

    “we are following that in a very commonsense type of way because between now and November, there is no way that you can have any full-scale constitutional discussion. However, if we waited until we had a full constitutional discussion, we would probably wait another 50 years before you had any changes. So this is the way that we take the first step, a little step, a significant step, a symbolic step, a cultural step, but an important step.”

    The guy is a political scientist and may be excused. A historian would be aware that he was describing a series of small steps that ignore the voices of the people, a giant steps towards …

  6. I saw it as a B or D thing, but there is also a group that knows better, but will not take a firm stand …

    Have a great day

    • What more persuasive argument does a Barbadian need than the fact we are removing a head of state from a former colonial master to be replaced by one of our kind?

  7. The political intelligentsia strikes again. Will someone please belle the cat? We should be able to count on the faculty of Cave Hill for scholarly input not weak propagandist tropes and empty political rhetoric. Otherwise distrust becomes ripe with justification.

    Or is it that only people with pedigree can dear to speak? Are views that differ from those of this governement no longer to be voiced?

    The Forde Commission was appointed to examine, consider and inquire into the Constitution of Barbados and other related laws and matters. With or without that fact the republic must be addressed in the Constitution since it is the supreme law of the land.

    We know of the past examination and considerations. What of the current perspectives? The shift in views over the last 20 years has been phenomenal. How can anyone fathom making a decision in 2021 using 1998 data and think the data is fit for purpose? Has any level of inquiry been done since 1998, 20o8 or 2018? Is it that the will of the Grantley Adams House is not to be questioned?

    Our Constitution did not contemplate a transition from a constitutional monarchy. It must therefore be amended prior to Barbados becoming a republic. Is it permissible to amend the Constitution after it has lapsed into abeyance with the suspension of the constitutional monarchy? Or are we ushering in a constitutional crisis?

    The way this process is being approached some people seem to think that governance is little different from selling souse on Saturday.

    Since this has become a matter of gaslighting (and an added PR distraction), here is my $3.99. Here is where I add my one litre’s worth of gas and hope it stretches.

    Consultative participation in governance was a genuine hallmark of the Commission in the execution of its mandate. Significant resources were used in order to facilitate and ensure the inclusion of the diaspora in the canvass of a wide cross-section of Barbadians.

    The report of the Forde Commission was submitted over twenty years ago. Its canvass was conducted during the last decade of the 20th century. We are now into the third decade of the 21st century; a fact which should not be purposed to rally Barbadians when it is politically opportune or bureaucratically convenient.

    Ctizens of Barbados do not seek merely to be governed or to be governed remotely but to be governed wisely and respectfully.

    The previous government made its errors as did each one to precede it. Its failure to listen to, engage with and heed the sentiments of the people contributed to its historic electoral demise. The current administration must see value in the outcome of the last general election with respect to when a government fails to listen or listens with great reluctance which is only surpassed by its collective arrogance.

    The voting public did not simply endorse the BLP overwhelmingly. The electorate also served notice to all and sundry in the political establishment when it soundly dismissed the DLP, and the obtuse manner in which it functioned as a government and managed the affairs of this nation.

    That is as far as my $3.99 goes. 

    • George Belle is retired?

      Do you agree the process of switching out the GG for a local person is a nobrainer? Against the background successive governments agree the transition is warranted?

      What we need to hear more of is what is involved in the first phase to take effect on November 2021. There is no better time to make this happen with a government that has two thirds majority in parliament. One suspects Mottley did not contemplate her overwhelming mandate when she pronounced on the matter before May 2018.

  8. @ Disgusting Lies & Propaganda TV August 3, 2021 8:07 PM

    “and now want to hold on to a constitutional monarchy where the monarch is not even Barbadian”

    I beg your pardon? Of course we already have an indigenous monarch! Namely our Supreme Leader Mia Mottley, Leader of the Caribbean, Prime Minister and eternal President of the Barbados Liberal Party.

  9. Taken from “Our Covenant of Hope” (2016), published by the Barbados Labour Party:


    The Hon. Mia Amor Mottley, Q.C., M.P.
    Political Leader & Chairman of the Barbados Labour Party

    Barbados is not working for the vast majority of Barbadians.

    We need a Covenant of Hope – one that will allow for the healing of our nation. We must, all of us, agitate for more visionary, compassionate and responsible leadership from all who would govern. We must return to the values that sustained and distinguished us as Barbadians.

    The time for a new politics is upon us.

    Our Party must let Barbadians know who we are, what we stand for, and what we are prepared to fight for.

    We must remain steadfast in our mission to build a better society, to forge a new national consciousness, to rebuild our economy – all guided by the best principles of good and transparent governance – while engaging the world.

    Simply put, ours is a mission of Enfranchisement, Empowerment and Inclusion.

    This Covenant, which was approved by our 2015 Annual Conference, sets out our values, our principles and our vision for a 21st Century Barbados and will inspire our policies. You shall always have the confidence of knowing how we will take decisions and how we will act in your name. It is a Covenant of Hope between us and you. We will come to you, parish by parish, to listen to you and elicit your ideas on how best to put our vision to work for you. And in return, we will ask for your patriotic and enthusiastic participation as together we seek to turn that vision into reality.

    The Barbados Labour Party understands that you cannot build a nation unless you empower a people. We understand the need for continuous conversations with those whom we serve about their hopes for the future. We understand that if even one person is not empowered, our nation is left the poorer. We understand that we cannot educate a people and then treat them as though they lack intelligence. We understand that family and community matter, that character matters, that trust matters, that hope must always be kept alive and that aspirations must become achievements. We understand that Barbados and the Caribbean need a new development vision, a new development path.

    We remain convinced that our country and the wider Caribbean have much of value to share with the world. We have a story to tell that holds great relevance for such a time as this. Our story teaches the world how harmony exists alongside diversity. This is all the more apt, in today’s reality, when religious extremism and class warfare appear to be at their worst.

    I was born at the dawn of a new era. I witnessed the emergence of a sovereign state from the vestiges of a colonial past. And as an independent Barbados grew from infancy, I too progressed through the stages of life blessed to have been loved and nurtured by my family and encouraged and inspired by the men and women in my constituency and in our wider Barbados. I have also been fortunate to sit at the feet of some of the greatest statesmen and thinkers Barbados and the Caribbean have ever produced. From them all, I have learnt what it takes to love, to lead, and to shape a nation – to keep a people rooted in the best of our values and traditions while allowing us to aspire to become global citizens.

    Today, many of us, as the “Children of
    Independence”, come to full maturity alongside our nation. We are part of a Joshua generation, tasked with leading a remnant out of a wilderness and into a Land of Promise. I am humbled and honoured to have been chosen to guide the Barbados Labour Party at this most perilous, yet promising, moment in our history as a nation.

    I, too, covenant with you that the team which I lead will always remember that we are servants of the people. We will be compassionate and accessible. We will be disciplined and always accountable to you.

    With courage and resolve, I know that true transformation will be attained. Our journey is not over. By the grace of God, it continues.

    Join with us in committing to this, Our Covenant of Hope, to build a new and better Barbados!

  10. If there is any perception of haste it is most likely to have it done on our 55th anniversary of our Independence. On this issue people are “mumbling” why do it by November the 30. IMO there isn’t a better date. It is the last day in the month so it allows for November to be celebrated as a patriotic month. Becoming a republic just completes the puzzle to becoming a fully sovereign state started by gaining independence. The truth is that the significance of independence day has waned drastically in Bajan’s minds. Hopefully this would reinvigorate the sense of patriotism

    TheOGazerts August 4, 2021 6:57 AM
    “However, if you read the articles carefully, no persuasive argument (IMO) for becoming a republic. In fact, “we gotta do this now or it could be a few more decades in happening” is the main reason.
    That means you are making light the notion of having a indigenous head of state instead of having a representative of the British monarch who is true our head of state. As I stated already, I am not overly antagonistic to the British monarch or even Great Britian…..but the concept of having a representative of a MONARCH that is not even Bajan is just plain ridiculous and horribly archaic

    I will use the analogy of the Moon Landing. Did the USA saw it as a waste of billions to send 2 men to the moon? The USA was fill with a sense of patriotism when it won the space race by sending astronauts to essentially a lifeless, airless big ball of rock 238000 miles from the Earth. I will also paraphrase Neil Armstrong’s quote. This may be a small step in the modification on our constitution but it is a giant step in the minds of a majority black population, whose ancestors came through 300 years of slavery, to have a fully sovereign state with no attachment to the institution (the British Monarchy as head of the United Kingdom) that dealt in the trading of slaves.

  11. Comparing the first landing on the moon to Barbados becoming a republic represents a viewpoint which is rooted in self delusion.

    Breadfruit and Burger King are both eaten. How many Americans care abiut breadfruit?

    We should know that a black slave under a white master and a black slave under a black master is still a slave.

    Do as I say and not as I do translates the same way regardless of the race of the person giving the instructions. Mia Mottley said it herself:

    We understand the need for continuous conversations. We understand that we cannot educate a people and then treat them as though they lack intelligence. 

    Who puts gas in a diesel vehicle because they can afford the repairs? If there was a slim majority in Parliament or a major Opposition presence the PM would not want to smell gas especially at $3.99.

    Seats will be lost by the government but more and more the need for an Opposition looms larger.

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