Barbados inches closer to becoming a republic

Barbados Attorney General Dale Marshall.
Barbados Attorney General Dale Marshall.
Photo by George Alleyne, file

As the most English or British of Caribbean Community countries becomes a republic in less than five weeks, the legislative groundwork is easily being rolled through the Barbados parliament and very soon, titles like Her Majesty’s Prison Service and the Royal Barbados Police Force will be tossed after nearly 400 years.

Earlier this week, parliament amended local laws to change the names of several national honor awards from British names and symbols to national ones with distinctly Barbadian insignias.

Barbados’ Attorney General, Dale Marshall piloted the legal amendments through a parliament dominated by lawmakers from the governing Barbados Labor Party (BLP) with consummate ease as excitement builds for the Nov. 30 switch from a country’s whose head of state is a white, aging great grandmother from England to a local ceremonial president who is Black like most Barbadians.

The title of governor general who represents Queen Elizabeth of Britain, will be replaced by a ceremonial or titular president. Constitutional and administrative systems have already been put in place for outgoing Governor General Dame Sandra Prunella Mason to become the country’s first president, serving alongside another woman at the helm of government and state-Prime Minister Mia Mottley. This is the first time in Barbadian history that two women hold the two most important constitutional titles and this feat is also among the first in the bloc of 15 nations. The change to a republic has been deliberately organized to coincide with Barbados’ 55th year of independence. The BLP holds nearly all 30 seats in the lower house.

The nation of just over 300,000 people and the most easterly in the Caribbean island chain, currently operates with names like her majesty’s prison service. State prosecutors and practicing attorneys have for decades appeared before magistrates and judges representing the crown, meaning her majesty’s crown system. Marshal says these will now serve the state of Barbados as those vestiges of colonialism are being removed to reflect Barbadian identity and localness.

Touching on national merit awards given out annually, the AG told the house that the gold and silver crowns of merit will now become the golden and silver tridents of excellence respectively. And locals who were knighted by the Queen will still be allowed to keep their titles even though it is unclear whether this system will continue going forward. Marshall made it clear as such to people in a country with among the highest number of knighthoods per capita outside the United Kingdom.

“Now there are those who might feel that by going republic we should throw out those things. But I think that that would be the wrong thing to do to try to diminish the value of that individual and the value of the honor to that individual at the time when it was given,” Marshall said.

Parliament has also approved an increase in the number of some awards which had had previous numerical limits. New appointees could only have been awarded in the aftermath of the death of a holder. In one such case, the limit has been moved to 50 from 15 and in another, group awards are now allowed, all in the lead up to Nov. 30.

When Barbados completes the process, it will join Guyana and Trinidad and former British colonies, which have become republics and are now governed by executive or titular presidents.

As the count down to the moment of national pride continues, PM Mottley contends that “there can be no better way than to reflect the love of self than to accept that one of your very own, born of this nation, shaped by this nation, adding to this nation, bringing honor to this nation that that person should be elected here. How can anyone deny the rightness of the moment? Recognizing, we need a mobilizing force and a unifying force to allow us to fight battles that hitherto in an independent Barbados we have not had to fight,” she said as parliament approved the nomination of Dame Sandra Mason to be president next month end.