Republicanism in Barbados
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In 1979, a commission of inquiry known as the Cox Commission on the Constitution was constituted and under the auspices of looking at the republic issue. The Cox Commission came to the conclusion that Barbadians preferred to maintain the constitutional monarchy. The proposal to move to a republican status was therefore not pursued. The 1994 manifesto of the Barbados Labour Party dealt both with the republic issue, proposing a referendum. In line with this promise, on 29 October 1996 a Constitution Review Commission, Chaired of Sir Henry de Boulay Forde was appointed to review the Constitution of Barbados.
- 1. “determine the necessity for retaining the Monarchical System of Government and make recommendations in respect of the Executive form of Government most suited to protect parliamentary democracy, the fundamental rights and freedoms of the citizens of Barbados and to achieve effective and efficient Government so as to position Barbados to meet the challenges of the 21st century and beyond.
- 2. To advise and make recommendations concerning the appropriateness or otherwise of maintaining Barbados’ link with the Crown.
- 3. To advise and make recommendations concerning a structure for the Executive Authority of Barbados that is best suited to protect the Independence and Authority of Parliament and the fundamental rights and freedoms of its citizens.”
The Commission held public hearings in Barbados and overseas. The Commission reported back on 15 December 1998, and submitted its report to His Excellency the Governor-General of Barbados.
The Commission recommended that Barbados adopt a Parliamentary republic system. In 1999 the Barbados Labour Party's Manifesto proposed that the findings of the Commission and its recommendation that Barbados become a republic would receive the early attention of the Government.
A Referendum Bill was introduced in Parliament and had its first reading on 10 October 2000. With the dissolution of Parliament just prior to the elections in 2003, the Referendum Bill was not carried over. A referendum on the issue was proposed again in 2008, but never was held.
2008 proposed referendum
A referendum on Barbados becoming a republic was planned to be held in Barbados by August 2008, near to the time of the parliamentary elections. However, it was reported on December 2, 2007, that the vote was to be held at a later date instead.
Do you agree with the recommendation of the Constitution Review Commission that Barbados should become a Parliamentary republic with the head of State of Barbados being a President who is a citizen of Barbados?
The Government of Barbados announced its intention to hold a referendum on the republic issue in February 2005. It introduced a Referendum Bill that month. The Bill was passed into law in October 2005. The Act did not set a date for the referendum, but instead specified that the "Referendum Day" could be proclaimed by the Governor-General, being no more than 90 days and no less than 60 days from the date of proclamation. The Act itself could not amend Barbados' constitution, because under section 49.1 a majority of two-thirds of Parliament is required to make any amendments.
Mia Mottley, who was Deputy Prime Minister of Barbados, said: "we feel that it is the right thing to do to have a Barbadian head of state. We accept that there was a concern that the Government alone should not make that decision in this day and age and we are therefore committed to expressing our views to the public and having them pass judgement on it."
On 22 March 2015, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart announced that Barbados will move towards a republican form of government "in the very near future". Stuart told a meeting of his Democratic Labour Party: "We cannot pat ourselves on the shoulder at having gone into independence; having de-colonised our politics; we cannot pat ourselves on the shoulders at having decolonized our jurisprudence by delinking from the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and explain to anybody why we continue to have a monarchical system. Therefore, the Right Excellent Errol Barrow decolonized the politics; Owen Arthur decolonized the jurisprudence and Freundel Stuart is going to complete the process."
The general secretary of the Democratic Labour Party, George Pilgrim, confirmed the move and said that it is expected to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Barbadian independence in 2016. According to Pilgrim, the change will be implemented through a bill that will be presented to the Parliament of Barbados.
According to the country's Constitution, a two-thirds majority in Parliament is needed to authorize the change. The Democratic Labour Party has a two-thirds majority in the Senate of Barbados but not in the House of Assembly where it would need the support of the opposition Barbados Labour Party to approve the transition. Mia Mottley, now the Leader of the Opposition, has not commented on the Prime Minister's proposal. However, the Barbados Labour Party has advocated the adoption of a republican system in the past when it was in power.
In the event that Barbados becomes a republic, it will retain its membership of the Commonwealth of Nations.
- "Barbados Labour Party - news". 11 February 2005.
- Staff writer (26 November 2007). "Referendum on Republic to be bundled with election". Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 28 November 2007. Retrieved 23 June 2010.
- Gollop, Chris. "VOTE OFF". Nation Newspaper. Archived from the original on 28 December 2007. Retrieved 23 June 2010.
- "Referendum Bill" (PDF). Parliament of Barbados. 2005. Retrieved 2009-01-28.
- Norman 'Gus' Thomas. "Barbados to vote on move to republic". Caribbean Net News.
- "Constitution of Barbados, Section 49 - Altering the Constitution". Government of Barbados. Retrieved 2009-01-29.
- S., D. (26 November 2007). "Still a voice". Nation Newspaper. Archived from the original on 28 November 2007. Retrieved 23 June 2010.
- "PM says Barbados moving towards Republic". Jamaica Observer. 23 March 2015. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
- "Barbados plans to replace Queen with ceremonial president". The Guardian. 23 March 2015. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
- "Barbados to remove Queen Elizabeth II as titular head of state". Globe and Mail. Associated Press. 23 March 2015. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
- "Barbados PM says island will replace the Queen and move towards republic". The Daily Telegraph. 23 March 2015.