By abolishing the monarchy, Barbados “broke a lock” in the Caribbean

In the Caribbean, the announcement of the death of Queen Elizabeth II on September 8, 2022, did not only arouse condolences. “I will have to hold a referendum and the Bahamian people will have to vote yes”, asserted Philip Davis, Prime Minister of the Bahamas, just four days after the death of the British sovereign. The head of government of this member state of the Commonwealth mentioned the holding of a popular consultation, at a later date, in order to establish a republic in this country which became independent in 1973.

He was not the only one: the day before, Gaston Browne, his counterpart from Antigua and Barbuda, had, in front of the cameras of the British channel ITV News, invoked “the last step to complete the process of independence and become a truly sovereign nation”. A referendum on the monarchy could take place “probably within three years”, according to this Labor. Similar questions have grown in Jamaica and, to varying degrees, in the eight former British colonies that have so far maintained Crown ties in the Caribbean.

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Especially since, in the region, a precedent struck the spirits. Less than a year before Queen Elizabeth passed away on November 30, 2021, Barbados celebrated the 55e anniversary of its independence by turning the page of four centuries of monarchy and by having a president. Elected by members of both Houses of the Barbadian Parliament, former Governor General Sandra Mason succeeded Elizabeth II as Head of State.

“Leaving behind our colonial past”

After several decades of procrastination and missed appointments, the change of regime in this independent country since 1966 finally occurred with disconcerting speed. On September 15, 2020, the same Sandra Mason announced the imminent end of the constitutional monarchy in the former “little England” of the Caribbean. “Our country can have no doubts about its ability to govern itself”then insisted this former magistrate, stressing the need to “leave our colonial past behind us for good”.

This hasty constitutional change surprised more than one in this micro-state of 290,000 inhabitants. “I would have preferred that we had had more time between the announcement and the official act of establishment of the Republic”, regrets Kristina Hinds, director of the department of political science, sociology and psychology at the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies. For this independent elected member of the Senate of Barbados, “there has been, because of this speed, a lot of misinformation and misunderstandings”within society, on the issues and methods of regime change.

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