#Editorial: Barbados Did it! Which Caribbean Island is Next?

barbados independence
Britain's Prince Charles, centre, stands with Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, right, and former cricketer Garfield Sobers, left, as they attend the Presidential Inauguration Ceremony for Dame Sandra Mason, at Heroes Square, in Bridgetown, Barbados, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021. Barbados has stopped pledging allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II as it shed another vestige of its colonial past and became a republic for the first time in history. Several leaders, dignitaries and artists, including Prince Charles, attended a ceremony that began late Monday and stretched into Tuesday in a popular square where the statue of a well-known British lord was removed last year amid a worldwide push to erase symbols of oppression. (Jeff J Mitchell PA via AP)

Amid much fanfare, fireworks, and celebrations, Barbadians became the fourth English-speaking and sixth Caribbean country to say goodbye to Queen Elizabeth as head of state. This move has been on the table since 1979, 13 years after gaining independence from Britain. And even though it has been talked about for over 40 years, not many in the Caribbean expected “Little England” to make it a reality.

Now that the dream has been realized by Barbados, which other Caribbean country will make the move? Currently, there are eight Caribbean countries holding Queen Elizabeth as head of state: St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, Grenada, St Lucia, and Jamaica.

Jamaica has been talking about it. In fact, both political parties have mentioned the cessation of ties to the British monarchy. And a Jamaican poll conducted by Bill Johnson for the Jamaica Observer, showed that 55 percent of Jamaicans want to go the route of Barbados.

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The Bahamas has already replaced the queen on its 100-dollar bill.

In 2009 St Vincent and the Grenadines tried unsuccessfully to get a referendum to replace the queen as head of state. Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves says he “looks forward to the day when other member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries will follow Barbados, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Dominica and adopt a republican form of government.”

Mr. Gonsalves in a letter to Prime Minister Mia Mottley, said “Barbados is not doing anything novel. But what it is doing is of utmost significance, for the better, for its people and our Caribbean civilization. It is my hope that, in my lifetime, all or most of the independent countries of CARICOM would move from a monarchial system to a republican one.”

Over in St Lucia, former Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony has called on the country’s government to “follow in the footsteps of Barbados and move towards becoming a republic.”  

While the move to republican status does not sever all ties with Britain, it does allow a country to have its own people at the highest level of government. It allows the sentiments of pride to permeate its citizenship and give hope that in spite of the past sacrifices, they can steer their own ship.

Prince Charles, the heir to the throne in his speech at the ceremony in Barbados, referred to the “appalling atrocities of slavery which forever stains our history.”  Britain became a wealthy nation because of the countries it “owned,” and those in the Caribbean suffered tremendously. The queen serves no purpose as head of a country other than Britain. Buckingham Palace does not contribute to the economic survival of any place it assumes the head of state and ending such relationships would not cause any damage to any party.

Britain and its former colonies will still continue to trade. British tourists will still come to enjoy the sands, beaches, climate. But now the people will truly be ruled by their own.

President of Barbados Dame Sandra Mason said during her swearing-in: “Vessel Republic Barbados has set sail on her maiden voyage. May she weather all storms and land our country and citizens safely on the horizons and shores which are ahead of us.”

We wish Barbados and its people all the best for the future. Finally, the words of its first prime minister and father of the country’s independence, Errol Barrow have come to pass. Now Bajans will do “no loitering on colonial premises after closing time.”  It is fully theirs. The question for the future is, which Caribbean country is next?