I did not think that I would have to write again about Barbados’ move to a republic. It has been a dud of a process and the selection of the President has been anticlimactic.
A noted academic described the process as “soulless”. I think that has resonated with many Barbadians at home and abroad, even those of us who wanted the Queen removed as our head of state. Though, we know in our governance systems, it is a Prime Minister that “runs things.”
If former Prime Minister Freundel Stuart had approached Barbados’ transition to republic with no genuine public consultation on the form of republic Barbados was to become, former Opposition Leader Mia Mottley, based on the track record, would have likely played high politics with marches, walk-outs of Parliament and taking to the streets. As I have said in this column before, what is good for one is good for the other.
I want a republic as most Barbadians, but no one would ever call the current republican process, properly executed. In other ways it has been undignified and exclusionary.
The very way the independence constitution was created as an elite, hierarchal exercise for the big-ups, this move to a republic was done in a similar if not worse fashion.
At least at the time of Independence there was spirited debate on all sides of the argument throughout the country and in Parliament. This moment has not been met with that same level of debate or engagement.
We are told by some commentators that we are to beat the drums and dance in the streets to celebrate the fall of Babylon. How has Babylon fallen when Barbadians were intentionally and directly left out the process for deciding the type of republic Barbados has become.
How do some commentators live in their glorious contradictions? Celebrate removing the Queen as head of State and the oaths of allegiance to the Queen but cannot respond to the fact that we will have a new republic with an old independence constitution.
The independence constitution that for example, contains a savings law clause to ‘save’ existing colonial laws, does not contain an explicit right to privacy and contains a preamble that tells the story of the oppressor while excluding the story of slavery and the people whose backs, literally and figuratively, on which Barbados was built.
Whenever the issue is raised, no one can adequately respond, because there is none but to recognise the contradiction. Maybe for these commentators, it is like asking a builder to repair your house. You come home and it is nicely painted on the outside and you feel very good until you walk through the door to realise the termites and rodents still infest the walls, but it is all too late.
You paid the money, and the builder is nowhere to be found, but at least you can keep pretending to your neighbours that everything is well, as you swat the termites and rodents from inside your home.
The saddest part of this whole republican affair is that we have been robbed of what should have been ours. Our moment has been hijacked by a political class unable to understand the shortcomings of its approach. We have simply swapped one ceremonial head of state for another ceremonial head of state as selected by the political class.
This could have been a moment to innovate and show bold new thinking on our governance. The status quo, essentially remains the same, though the Queen was removed.
I guess when you broadcast to the world a deadline, but do not engage with your own people, you are driven by those external forces and timelines. Sounds, oddly colonial.
It would have taken tremendous resolve to pause and understand the process of transitioning Barbados to a republic needed to genuinely include the People as the constituent element of the constitution of Barbados.
Ronnie Yearwood is a lecturer in law, lawyer and social commentator. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org