Barbados As A Republic? …Not Until The Process and Our Government Are Open And Accountable, Thanks!

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Beware Those Who Rush To An Undefined Republic

As our thoughts turn to the future on the 40th anniversary of our Independence, the word “Republic” is whispered with reverence in some circles. Many want to see Barbados as a republic simply on principle – to rid ourselves of the last vestige of colonialism. They argue, “Can we ever be truly and proudly independent when our Head of State is a foreigner who lives in Britain?” Some even say, “If Charles is to be King, then it’s time to leave.”

Some want to “divorce” Britain to punish that country for transporting slaves to Barbados. (As I’ve said before, I’m sorry what my ancestors went through, but I’m not terribly upset to be a Bajan instead of still living in, say, Rwanda or Nigeria.)

While there may or may not be good political, economic or legal reasons for Barbados becoming a republic, to most people, the issue is decided upon an emotional feeling of nationalism. And while there is certainly nothing wrong with lofty idealism and national pride driving the discussion about becoming a republic, we must be careful that we know what we are getting into before we make the leap.

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Thanks For The Offer, Mr. Prime Minister – But No Blank Cheque For You!

Both Prime Minister Owen Arthur and Deputy Prime Minister Mia Mottley have indicated in the past that they want Bajans to approve a Republic BEFORE we know what form that republic and and it’s laws would take.

The PM and his co-conspirators want a blank cheque from the Bajan people to let the political and economic elites define just what the New Republic will be. (Hello to all those Plato fans out there!)

Back in October of 2000, the Owen Arthur government tried to push a bill through Parliament that would have seen Bajans vote upon a referendum question without having any details of what they were voting for. The government was basically asking for a mandate to do whatever it wanted, and it hasn’t stopped trying to achieve that ability to act without real consultation or accountability.

In January of 2005, Prime Minister Arthur announced that then Attorney-General Mia Mottley would be presenting a bill to Parliament to amend the Constitution. (See our story original story here.) Then in April of 2006, Mia Mottley announced that the new Constitution was being held up “because the Government has given a commitment to ask Barbadians a question on this matter.” (Original BFP story here.)

Note the phrasing by “Mama Mia” Mottley. The government will ask A question on this matter. No general discussion, no hearings, to extensive process to involve all citizens in shaping our new country. No process laid out at all. Nope.

Mia and Owen just want to get that “yes” on the ballot any way they can so they can do whatever they want!

And Here Comes The Killer…

Bajans would be fools to let any politicians embark upon a process to becoming a republic without first defining in great detail, and publically, what the process will be!

This is so basic that it shouldn’t even have to be mentioned – but we do have to point it out because no other Bajan media talks about this most important and fundamental step.

So, number one: we have to agree upon a process that is transparent and accountable.

Why We Shouldn’t Trust Any Barbados Politicians Right Now

Let’s say that we agree upon a process: How are we then to ensure that the process is followed and that all the politicians are acting for the good of Barbados and not narrow self-serving interests?

With no Integrity and Conflict of Interest Legislation in place, there is nothing in law to prohibit a politician from misusing their position.

With no Freedom Of Information Laws, citizens have no mechanism to force misbehaving government and politicians to reveal records that prove misuse of position.

This is not about whether Owen Arthur, David Thompson, Mia Mottley or any other politician is a good or honest person. The system is faulty. It lacks the laws that make people accountable for their improper actions, and it lacks the mechanisms in law that allow citizens to examine the activities of their elected and appointed representatives.

A Message To Prime Minister Owen Arthur & His Friends Co-Conspirators

Don’t talk about forming a republic when you refuse to put in place Integrity and Conflict of Interest legislation – and Freedom of Information laws giving citizens access to the information they require to hold public officials accountable.

Mr. Prime Minister, your refusal to institute Integrity and Conflict of Interest legislation marks you as a privileged elite who views ordinary citizens with contempt.

In the Prime Minister’s mind, we (ordinary Bajans) don’t need any protection against the wrong-doing of public officials. The Prime Minister’s word that “everything be ok” should be enough.

Such assurances show contempt for ordinary Bajan citizens. Nothing more or less.

Sir Frederick Smith Cautions On Rushing Into A Republic

Sir Frederick Smith warns Bajans…

“We must have the constitution drafted and if any government – DLP (Democratic Labour Party) or BLP (Barbados Labour Party) – come without you having an opportunity as an intelligent person to read, to ask somebody about it, do not vote for a republic. Vote against it.”

From The Nation News…

Don’t vote to turn Barbados into a republic unless you first see the new constitution.

Retired jurist Sir Frederick Smith gave Barbadians this piece of advice last Saturday during a discussion on the 40th anniversary of the island’s Independence at the Mount Zion’s Missions church in Rock Dundo,
St James.

“People should not vote for a republic until they see the constitution, to make sure that it is better in a sense to the one we have now,” the former Court of Appeal judge advised.

“We must have the constitution drafted and if any government – DLP (Democratic Labour Party) or BLP (Barbados Labour Party) – come without you having an opportunity as an intelligent person to read, to ask somebody about it, do not vote for a republic. Vote against it.”

Sir Frederick, once an attorney-general in a DLP Government, and former BLP minister Lionel Craig, comprised the panel discussing Barbados: Life After 40 – Uphill Or Downhill?

Both had some areas of agreement, including the position that Barbadians had made strides in several fields after Independence in 1966, and on the importance of moving from a monarchial system of government to a republican one.

“I’m all for republic,” Sir Frederick declared, “but I am not voting for a republic until I see the constitution . . .. Draft the constitution. Let me see how you’re going to select the president, how you’re going to dismiss the president, whether my fundamental rights are being safeguarded under the republican constitution.

… Read the entire article at The Nation News (link here)

25 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Politics & Corruption

25 responses to “Barbados As A Republic? …Not Until The Process and Our Government Are Open And Accountable, Thanks!

  1. Bajanboy

    What a well-written piece, BFP.

    I would vote against becoming a republic simply because I do not think it would be of any benefit to Barbados. Let’s fix some of the things wrong with the present system of government (you mention two of the most important) before we throw money down the drain on something that will yield little or no benefit to Barbados.

    It’s time for a revolution in Barbados. Barbadians need to stand up and get involved with how this country is run, not once every four years, but every day. The inefficiency and bureaucracy of Government is presently the single biggest drag on the economy. A transparent and ultra-efficient government is what is needed to transform Barbados.

  2. passin thru

    Hear! Hear! Bajanboy!!!!

  3. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Blog Archive » Barbados: To be or not to be a republic

  4. Well measured piece, BFP- take a bow!

    Clearly we would be stupid to buy a pig in a poke, and to mix metaphors, Better the Devil you know than the one you don’t.

    Two basic Republican alternatives are open to us- 1) a President like that in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago with largely ceremonial powers; or 2) a President like that in the Republic of Guyana with executive powers such as we saw in Forbes Burnham.

    Have we heard which one is planned and do we have any say?

    I for one am very apprehensive of an executive president in the form of Mia Mottley who constantly reveals autocratic tendencies over which there has to be a strong curb. Take her recent statements, endorsed by the BLP, about putting controls on call-in programmes and blogs, for instance.

    Our present system has worked very well, in fact is the envy of many nations. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The more we can adhere to our balances two-party system the better, with the monarchy put on the shelf if necessary. “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread!”

  5. So Miss Mottley stands up in Parliament and tells us we need a new Constitution? That’s it? We take her word for it?

    Apart from our Head of State not being a Barbadian citizen, exactly what is wrong with the rest of our constitution? I thought it was pretty good.

    One can’t really blame the ruling party for having ideas of pushing though a revamped constitution to suit their purposes. After all, the Opposition is so ineffective that it looks like we will have a one-party state for some time to come. May as well have a constitution that legalises it, right?

    You are correct. The people of Barbados must see in advance the details of what is proposed and be allowed to vote on it by referendum or plebiscite or whatever. There are enough banana republics with tinpot dictators already.

  6. Citizen First

    Re: Barbados as a republic etc.

    In my opinion, the Barbados Free Press commentary has set up a straw horse to then knock it down. By all definitions available to me, Barbados is already a republic. The fact that we have the Queen of England as our head of state is an anomaly (or an anachronism) that I hope we will soon correct. As I understand it, the Government is proposing to remove the Queen as the head of state as the next logical move in our constitutional development. The more substantial issues as identified in the report of the Forde commission are still to be debated regardless of whether the Queen is or is not the head of state. Since both major political parties have indicated agreement on the issue of the removal of the Queen as head of state, I think it is disingenuous to refuse to act on this simple issue arguing that we must first contemplate much more weighty issues which may take many more years of debate and education. A “perfect” constitution for all time is a fantasy. We, as a nation, will just have to work with whatever arrangements exist, modifying and supplementing as we go along. Finally, it would seem that the ruling elites are quite happy with the present arrangement and since the Queen does not get in their way they would not lose any sleep if by keeping that institution forestalls any meaningful constitutional reform.

  7. Hants

    If I lived in Barbados I would be comfortable with Barbados becoming a republic.
    I do not understand why a country that has done well so far would fall apart under Black republican rule. I don’t feel any attachment to the “Union Jack”

    I understand that people who have worked hard to acquire Land,house and SUV would be worried that they could lose it under a “despotic republican government” but Barbados has been blessed by good political parties and Government.

    Also, the Barbados economy is based on Tourism,Foreign investment and Offshore Banking and any sign of unrest would destroy the country.

    Hopefully the people who live in Barbados will have an opportunity to vote on becoming a Republic.

  8. Bajanboy

    I quite like the Queen.

  9. To me it seemed more important to replace the Privy Council with a Caribbean court of last resort than to replace our Governor General who acts as proxy for the Queen. Our Governor General is a model of decorum respected by all, offending no one.

    It seems inappropriate to raise the Republic issue just at a time when we are trying to adjust to the idea of a Caribbean Single Market and Economy. With other Caribbean nationals free to enter this island and set up mafias (according to the Police Commissioner) we have much more to concern us than who the titular head of state may be.

    Let us get our priorities right and cross one bridge at a time.

  10. passin thru

    Naive… a republic with a new constitution is not just about getting rid of the Queen. It is about how we will run this country, laws, taxes, courts. There is nothing it may not touch.

    To say it is just about the Queen is to either misunderstand what might happen or to conceal what might happen. Which are you?

  11. You say, “While there may or may not be good political, economic or legal reasons for Barbados becoming a republic…”

    If this is in doubt is it in our best interest to make such a decision based mainly on “an emotional feeling of nationality”? Not a very compelling reason.

  12. Passin Thru…Is Revolution you talking? I didn’t think they want to upset the whole applecart? We have it good right now. Leave it so.

  13. Hants

    What does Elton John and Mick Jagger have in common with Louis Tull?

    Answer? They have been Knighted.

    Sir Louis Tull is now in exalted company.Right?

  14. Repercharge

    Talking about republic is Owen Arthur ever held accountable for anything ? He said a referendum on rebublican status was imminent couple years ago. Then he said that “mandate” died with change of parliament. Of course we the citizens had no say in either of those pronouncements. Where are we now on referendum? Any BLP hacks here with inside track on this changing story?

  15. De Orginal

    Interesting Debate but we must be aware of what we as citizens are getting into before we proceed. Bajans aint foolish as most politicians assume and they have better come good with this “Republic”. What we need is Integrity Legislation to start the ball rolling. Bajans should insist that each parlimentary rep, Government Minister and Senior Civil Servants be held to the following three at all times Integrity, Accountabilty and Transparency. Until such things are put in place there can be no talk of any republic or for a matter of fact any other serious reform.

  16. Repercharge

    @De Original my own take is that Owen believed he would have lost the referendum. I am of opinion that Bajans would have voted NO to the republic. With Guyana,Trinidad and apartheid South Africa as republican examples Bajans were not going to say YES to the republic. That meant Owen and the BLP losing.That defeat could have been gateway to forcing elections and DLP winning same elections. Too much as stake for the Bees therefore the republic question got the deep six.. But where is the mainstream media in all this? They should be questioning Owen until he turns blue in the face on referendum and republic.

  17. 16 Yrs-Proud

    Hello everyone! Long time! I am glad to see we generally agree on not becoming republic. The republic form which I am most exposed to is the one present in the U.S.A. I compare it to a dictatorship only that it’s short term! I know, like where did that come from. I envision a republic as a country who gives 1 person almost absolute control for a fixed term. For example he could literrally wage wars and continue to wage war against his people will (No further alliteration necessary.) Today in the paper I saw an article with some guys released from jail for what should really be called ‘mass assassination’. They were supposedly pro-marxist. Not having a clue what that meant I researched it. It’s ideas are projected as to what would be the ideal government, and from what i gathered it did not include 1 person having the majority of the power of the country. I find our current governmental system quite adequate in fact i find it to be the actual best in the world. Proof to me being that with regards to governing our people are very content (comparative to most other countries) and most governmental decisions are out in the open. Even proposals of governmental decisions are widely publicized (like when they go to parliament and shout at each other). I also find our methods to be quite entertaining. I mean everything is so in the open spys are useless here. So why change it. Mia may want her boss to have more power over our economy (after all she’s second in command). He may even have to get paid more since he would also supposedly have “more responsibility”. You can be sure if he gets more money eventually so will she. To me we are doing just fine. Our silent protests take front page for goodness sake. Plus the fact that there is an opposition prying at the flaws of our government to me is remarkable. Let’s us compare our government as a West Minster System to 3 Republics: Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana & the United States of America. Compare the known corruption for instance. Our current system does not allow for much corruption going un-noticed therfore comparatively little occurs. Let’s face a few minor tweaks and our system would be the least unstable and corrupt. We need to congratulate ourselves as a nation for this. Happy Independence Barbados 🙂

  18. De Orginal

    @ 16 Proud Our current system also does not have the necessary legislation to deal with corruption effectively either. Two of those three countries you mention not only have the legislation but also the technical mechanisms in place to deal with any aspect of corruption. The USA have a history of going after wrongdoers in public office regardless of their status and in the recent pass TnT have started such maybe we neeed to import this positon rather than the negatives we seem expert at doing.

  19. How interesting that a majority of bloggers realise that for us to become a Republic has few certain virtues and many potential hazards and uncertainties. Did the politicos think that by waving the racial flag of “no more white head of state!” they would cast a smoke screen over the realities of rewriting our constitution? Not so fast.

    I think Governor Generals (or should that be “Governors General?”) suit our needs just fine. I think we get a kick out of having Sir Courtenay This, Dame Nita That and the international prestige of OBE. We have an affinity for respectability and ceremony. Just because today’s youth lack discipline and vulgarity passes for culture, we don’t have to surrender all standards we cherish.

    Let Mia keep her presidential uniform hanging in the closet where it belongs. And dare them to hold that referendum!

  20. BRIT

    Hello to fellow subjects of the Queen. I am British and no my opinion counts little in your country. However your country mine and 14 others in the commonwealth share a head of state. I ask you consider to stay in the club of commonwealth subjects for it is a link between the countries that i think should remain.

  21. Jerome Hinds

    Can anyone tell us if Owen Arthur & his BLP crooks spent time in Swaziland ?

    http://www.times.co.sz/002.html#article11

  22. Wishing in Vain

    Can anyone please give me an update on the progress of work at the Oistins centre that was supposely to be completed by CWC I think that was held in April we are now into the end of October and I certainly know that it looks no closer to being ready now as it was in April.
    I am hearing that it is grossly over budget and grossly late in delivery, just another example of gov’t wasting and lacking oversight on these works projects.
    What is the Tourism investments role in this project?

  23. Christopher V. Misir

    Whatever happened to all the talk of a Barbados republic? Curious minds want to know.

  24. 125

    God save the Queen

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