Until quite recently, there was little or no chatter about tiny St. Kitts and Nevis moving to ditch the British monarchy, become a republic and appoint its own local head of state instead of King Charles III as the symbol of the highest office holder in the land.
But brand new Prime Minister Terrence Drew announced at the weekend that the twin-island federation near Antigua will be heading in that direction in a hurry as authorities are anxious for the federation to complete the full circle of sovereignty, perhaps in a year’s time.
Other fellow CARICOM nations like Jamaica, Antigua, Grenada and more recently The Bahamas have either made noises about becoming republics or have laid down definitive plans to do so in the coming years.
There appears to be little doubt that Barbados’ move in a glittering ceremony that was televised live globally last November appears to have been the catalyst for nations like Jamaica and now St. Kitts springing into action to join Guyana, Trinidad, Dominica and Barbados as republics in the 15-nation regional trading bloc.
Next September, the federation will be observing 40 years of independence from Britain and PM Drew, a Cuban-trained medical doctor, says that time would be a fitting period to make the switch. This is even as it is unclear what constitutional steps would have to be cleared as many of the smaller Eastern Caribbean nations require the holding of a referendum to make the switch.
“The debates are robust and lively in our barbershops, village bars and shops and even in our homes among friends and relatives. I will confess, we are not totally free yet. As a small island nation, we depend on many partners, internationally and regionally. But we are on a path of continuous improvement for our people and our country. And as your fourth prime minister of this land, I am honored to lead our country along this path. Our nation is much closer to true independence than not,” he said.
Dr. Drew’s St. Kitts Nevis Labor Party (SKNLP) won a landslide victory in general elections in early August, taking advantage of an embarrassing public break-up of the previous multi party coalition government that was in its second consecutive term.
The switch to a republic was not a main campaign issue in the run up to the August 5th polls but the PM has now placed it on the political front burner saying authorities are eyeing a possible move by next year’s 40th independence anniversary. Barbados made the switch on its 55th anniversary. Guyana was the first in Caricom to become a republic, way back in 1970.
Since Barbados appointed its own head of state, a seemingly jealous Jamaica which often prides itself as a leader of things Caribbean, has begun a frenzied campaign to become a republic but its efforts to make the transition in time for its 60th independence celebrations in August were stymied by the need to follow some serious constitutional steps including the holding of a referendum to achieve this. It has since appointed a special legal affairs ministry to amend the relevant laws and to help arrange to ditch the British monarchy, perhaps by next August.
Antigua, Belize, The Bahamas, Grenada as well as Jamaica and St. Kitts have all made clear statements about becoming republics. Bahamian Prime Minister Phillips Davis recently talked about allowing locals to decide even as he indicated that he was not against it. Jamaican PM Andrew Holness was even more pellucid and blunt when he told a visiting Prince Williams and wife, Kate, earlier this year that Jamaica was “moving on” to become a republic, an announcement that had clearly caught the royals off guard.
Going more in-depth during his broadcast, Dr. Drew said “the big move could occur for the 40th anniversary next year as we also set our eyes on transitioning into a republic. We trod on towards that goal. That goal of self-determination and self-actualization is where we truly encapsulate our sovereignty. That is why each time I get the opportunity to speak to our nation’s young people, I challenge them to be innovative, to be creative and to envision a better St. Kitts and Nevis and use their immense skills to help get us there.”
From all appearances, most of the governments plan to use major national upcoming milestones to either make a case for republicanism or to actually make a switch.
For example, The Bahamas would celebrate 50 years as an independent nation next year so the talk about being a republic is on the rise. Prince William had also stopped over there on his regional swing where protestors had called on the administration to dump then Queen Elizabeth as its head of state and become a republic.