From Constitutional Monarchy to
Republic: Barbados and Jamaica
Posted By: Monique Spence. Thursday, April 02, 2015 (Edited)
Barbados, an island first settled by English colonists in 1605 and later called ‘Little England’ went independent in 1966. It is a country with a population of some three hundred thousand and a literacy rate of 99.7 %, one of the highest in the world.
|The Barbados Parliament|
Barbados is a small country with little or no natural resources, yet with a GDP per capita of $25, 100, the CIA Fact book says that ‘Barbados is the wealthiest and most developed country in the Eastern Caribbean and enjoys one of the highest per capita incomes in Latin America.’ Even though this does not as yet match up to those of the developed countries of the western world, it is still a significant achievement.
‘Historically’ the CIA commentary continues, ‘The Barbadian economy was dependent on sugarcane cultivation and related activities. However, in recent years the economy has diversified into light industry and tourism with about four-fifths of GDP and of exports being attributed to services. Offshore finance and information services are important foreign exchange earners and thrive from having the same time zone as eastern US financial centers and a relatively highly educated workforce.’
Barbados has historically been known as a society of strong shared values and networks of social connections which make social cooperation and the achievement of collective goals easier. This internal social cohesion and consensus is what is called social capital.
In addition to the fact that Barbados has invested heavily in the education of its citizens to the highest levels, it has also been known for the maturity in which it conducts its politics. It has also had favourable ratings in Transparency International’s corruption perception index
As Professor Stephen Vasciannie, former Dean of the Norman Manley Law School said, “The British monarchy, arising as it did from the unique features of British constitutional history, was suitable for Britain: but, constitutional structures must emanate from their local circumstances, and so, as a matter of sovereign authority, Caribbean governments should work to cut the umbilical cord with the United Kingdom, as a matter of high importance,”.
The writer fully supports these sentiments. Independent Caribbean countries, as a matter of national dignity and self-respect, must move expeditiously to make their constitutional frameworks that of a Republic; that is one having no links to a monarch . . . .
Before resigning as Prime Minister, Golding in the 2011-2012 Budget Debate, expressed his view that as part of Jamaica’s 50th Anniversary celebration, the monarchical link to Buckingham Palace and the heirs and successors to Queen Elizabeth II should be terminated. This would allow for the establishment of a republic with its own Jamaican Head of State . . .
Republic of Jamaica: Ditching the British Queen
|Jamaica's Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, center, smiles after being sworn in by Governor General Patrick Allen, right, at King's House in Kingston, Jamaica, Jan. 5, 2012.|
Jamaicans don’t have a lot to celebrate as they mark their golden anniversary of independence this year. Their unemployment rate is almost twice that of the Caribbean region as a whole; their government is still reeling from a drug kingpin scandal that helped oust the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) from power last month; and many are still bummed out by last summer’s shocking false-start disqualification from the world championship’s 100-meter dash by their national hero, the god-like Olympic gold-medal sprinter Usain Bolt.
So for many Jamaicans it was a morale booster when new Prime Minster Portia Simpson Miller announced in her inaugural address on Jan. 6 that she would “initiate the process of detachment” from Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II this year. Although Jamaica won its independence from British colonial rule in 1962, the Queen has remained the island’s head of state. Making Jamaica a republic would sever that relationship. “I love the Queen,” Simpson Miller declared. “She’s a beautiful lady…a wise lady and a wonderful lady. But I think the time has come . . . . “
These two Caribbean Commonwealth countries are moving steadily and positively toward republic status. Both became self-governing in the 1960s but retained Queen Elizabeth as head of state, and there most of the similarities end.
Barbados lies in the Windward Islands in the far east of the Caribbean Sea while Jamaica lies 1,500 kilometres away to the west and just south of Cuba. Barbados has a population of just 280,000 compared with Jamaica’s almost 3,000,000. Jamaican citizens struggle to achieve a reasonable standard of living, satisfactory levels of employment and educational achievement. Jamaica also struggles with high rates of crime and violence. Jamaica has a homicide rate per 100,000 population of 39.3. Barbados does much better at just 7.4 per 100,000.
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This small nation of Barbados has one of the highest literacy rates in the world, about 99.7%, compared with a world average of 84.1%. A comparison of unemployment rates between the two countries shows that 11.5% of Barbadians are unemployed, while 16.3% of Jamaicans are listed as unemployed. But these figures can be misleading due to differing methods of gathering statistics in different countries.
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For Jamaica, going republic may instil a new sense of national pride and purpose, something Barbados already has. Barbadians already elect governments noted for transparency, excellent foreign policy, and respect in many international forums. For a nation of 280,000 people, Barbados punches well above its weight. Becoming a republic with an elected Barbadian president is a logical next step, but don’t expect them to leave the Commonwealth. Meanwhile, the constitutional process for change is well advanced.
In recent years there have been stirrings in Australia and New Zealand for electing a local head of state too. But in this part of the world the movement has a long struggle ahead to overcome apathy, misconceptions and misinformation. Kiwis and Aussies tend to have a much better understanding of rugby racing and beer, than they do of national and international politics.