Time to go republic
Retired jurist Sir Frederick Smith has had a long career of service to Her Majesty the Queen.
The 86-year-old former Justice of Appeal in Barbados, has also served as non-resident Chief Justice of the Turks and Caicos Islands, president of the Court of Appeal of Grenada and assistant Attorney General of Cameroon.
Sir Frederick, who received a knighthood from the Queen in November 1987, has also worked in Jamaica and directly with the Foreign Office in England on revising the Cayman Islands constitution.
But today he is saying enough is enough.
In an interview with Editor-in-Chief Kaymar Jordan, Sir Frederick says it is time for Barbados to do away with the British monarchy and to move to republican status.
He spoke following this week’s royal wedding.
Q: First, Sir Frederick, did you watch the royal wedding?
Sir Frederick: I viewed it. Typically English, in that it went off like clockwork. It was obviously planned and rehearsed and everything went off well. I wish William and Kate (the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge) the best of everything ’cause I have been married for 53 years and I hope they will exceed that.
Q: I’m certain you are not alone in offering best wishes. In fact, Barbadians on the whole seem to have time for the monarchy?
Sir Frederick: Oh, there is no doubt about it. Her Majesty is a charming, able [Queen] and she certainly sets an example, which we should all emulate in terms of loyalty, devotion and commitment, but that is Her Majesty . . .
Q: What makes you say that?
Sir Frederick: Well, I mean, Prince Charles and Diana, we all know what happened with them. If . . . the stories told about him in the British Press are true, he committed adultery when he was married and he is the next heir to the throne so automatically he would succeed Her Majesty.
Q: But the current view is that Prince Charles would give way to his son Prince William.
Sir Frederick: Whether he backs down or abdicates is a matter for him but by law in England and by law under our constitution, he (Prince Charles) would be the next king of Barbados.
Q: But what would be your problem with Prince William?
Sir Federick: I have no problem with William, except that I want a republican government. My view is that as long as Her Majesty is alive I don’t mind the monarchy, but we should be in a position to become a republic the moment Her Majesty abdicates.
Q: Why wait on her?
Sir Frederick: Well, we don’t have to wait on her. All I am saying is I’m compromising by saying that as long as she is alive, I would stay with her, but I certainly don’t want Charles and I don’t want William.
I feel that we have been independent for (nearly) 45 years and it is time that we have our own head of state. You see what has happened to Barbados is that there are some banana republics in Latin America and everybody seems to think that we would become a banana republic too, which is nonsense!
We have the third oldest constitution in the British Commonwealth. Britain has bequeathed us respect for law and order and respect for parliamentary democracy, and Barbadians are sensible enough to make that work. So I can’t see any dictatorship or any nonsense creeping into Barbados and Barbados becoming a banana republic.
Q: So you are saying that Barbados has nothing to gain from remaining with the monarchy?
Sir Frederick: We don’t benefit. They don’t help us to balance anything. We are in the midst of a recession and Britain is in the midst of a recession. They haven’t given us anything. Even before we were independent, we were independent financially, so we don’t have anything to lose.
Britain wouldn’t disown us. I’m sure that Her Majesty would be the first person to agree that we should become a republic ’cause she hasn’t been here for how many years. I mean we would still be members of the Commonwealth. Trinidad and Dominica are republics and I don’t think the British government hates them or dislikes them. I mean Britain was glad to get rid of us and when we became independent, Britain got rid of us, except that we had the connection of Her Majesty as head of state.
Q: But you notice that Trinidad and Dominica were not included in the list of special invitees to the royal wedding?
Sir Frederick: But they didn’t invite (Tony) Blair and they didn’t invite (Gordon) Brown either – two former Labour party prime ministers. So who makes up the list? (chuckle)
Q: So you think Prime Minister Stuart was right not to attend the wedding?
Sir Frederick: It is not right or wrong. He hasn’t given a reason why he didn’t accept the invitation but if I had an invitation from my worst enemy, once it is legitimate and above board, I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t go.
Q: But you are adamant, we have to get back to this issue of republicanism.
Sir Frederick: We have to get back to it! Just as we have to get back to the Caribbean Court of Justice! Since 2001, how many? Three countries – Barbados, Guyana, Suriname on the original jurisdiction side and now Jamaica has the guts to say that they are going to send a case [against Barbados with Shanique] Myrie to the Caribbean Court of Justice when they wouldn’t join it?
Q: You have a problem with that position being taken by Jamaica?
Sir Frederick: I do have problem with that. As a matter of fact, my problem is that if Trinidad does not come in (to the CCJ), my view is, and I have said this before, I would move the court from Trinidad. Give them a time limit. If they don’t come in by year 2012, out goes the court and give it to Guyana, give it to anybody except Trinidad.
Q: I understand what you are saying in principle but would you have the same position had you been given the post you are known to have wanted for some time – that of Governor General of Barbados?
Sir Frederick: Indeed, I had ambitions but I am too old for that now. I wanted to make Government House relevant to the people of Barbados. Not like Buckingham Palace. People are dying day in and day out and never seeing where their governor general lives from colonial days. So I would open it up.Naturally, a lot of English-background people want to have the Queen but when you look at Independence and what it means to you, you want to be an independent country, not with the Privy Council as your final court of appeal or the Queen as your head of state.
I agree that economically, I can’t see that you would benefit anything, but when that flag was lowered Independence night, I felt a feeling come over me that I never felt before. I was independent. I had a flag. I had an anthem. I was an independent person. I wasn’t a British subject and therefore it is similar with head of state. I think we have reached a stage after 45 years when we should give serious consideration to becoming a republic.
Q: But isn’t the problem that Caribbean people themselves don’t want to break the umbilical cord with the monarchy?
Sir Frederick: Well, I mean if you want to test that, have a referendum. Just as Bermuda had a referendum on whether they want to have independence, Australia had a referendum on whether they want to be a republic. It would cost a little money, but it would settle the matter once and for all.