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How ‘Caribbean Six’ can follow through on republican departure

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Posted: Tuesday, May 3, 2022. 12:21 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: OpIndia has been discussing how Belize, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Kitts and Nevis are planning to become republics by removing the British monarch as their collective head of state.

Barbados did so in November of 2021 and after the recent royal visits which saw multiple protests, demands, and declarations of breaking away from Britain, the issue has gone front-and-center of regional discussion.

Reasons given by each for deciding to begin the process range from having a locally elected and designated head of state, to wanting to cut formal ties with the colonial order and making independence and self-determination real, to shoring the case for reparations and apologies for slavery and colonial practices.

All six are members of the Commonwealth of Nations which consists of 54 former British colonies in addition to the United Kingdom itself, and are also part of the Commonwealth Realms which retain the monarch as Queen of their respective territories with all acts and deeds done in her name. In all other aspects, these countries are independent although some have kept British-based law and other traditions; the Commonwealth provides trade links between members and in some cases a foundation for resolving disputes.

During the visit of Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton to Jamaica, the prince expressed his “profound sorrow” and said “slavery was abhorrent” but refrained from an apology, angering Jamaicans.

Jamaica is perhaps closest to dropping out, creating a new ministry giving a clear indication of moving away from the monarchy. The government has created a legal and constitutional affairs ministry and is planning to overhaul and update local laws. The ministry will preside over the process to shift Jamaica’s status as a constitutional monarchy. A referendum to become a republic is expected to be held this year.

In both The Bahamas and Belize, also visited by the Cambridges, leaders have said their nationals will decide the national future. Minister of the Public Service Henry Charles Usher’s quote from the Budget Debate is restated: “…the decolonization process is enveloping the Caribbean region. Perhaps it is time for Belize to take that next step in truly owning our independence. But it is a matter that the people of Belize must decide on.”

Antigua and Barbuda is taking its time as according to a Minister there, there must be an educational campaign and review of the country’s constitution. General elections in Antigua and Barbuda are scheduled for next year, and there are proposals to hold both the election and the referendum together to save costs. But the minister said he prefers to hold both separately because if held together, the issue of a referendum to ditch the British Royals can become politicized.

In the meanwhile, black and indigenous groups across Jamaica, Belize and the Bahamas have come together to demand slavery reparations from Britain and to remove the Queen as head of state in each country.

However, the process of removing Queen Elizabeth as a sovereign is different in different countries, as their constitutions are different. In the case of Barbados, it was done by a two-thirds majority of the parliament house. In countries like Jamaica and Grenada, removing Elizabeth as head of state would first require a constitutional change that may take two to three years. Most of the countries will need a public referendum for the change.

One thing is clear, that the topic will be on the minds of many for some time to come.

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