ALL AH WE IS ONE: A ready-made issue
There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries. – William Shakespeare
Over the last two weeks, the kick-starting of the discussion on the issue of republican status for Barbados has presented Prime Minister Freundel Stuart with a “tide” of an issue, which if, “taken at the flood”, can lead him to political fortune.
What is particularly attractive [about] republicanism, is that it provides Stuart with a ready-made issue, that suits his cultivated political image as a student of Barbadian history and as a professed anti-colonialist committed to democratisation in the interest of the majority.
The republicanism issue is also re-emerging in a moment when the country is badly in need of a substantive debate about its political development and future, beyond the narrow economistic discussion about growth, debt, recession, and “what is the Government doing about CLICO?”
It should also be recalled that the Prime Minister has often reminded his critics that while previous political leaders have been maligned by the Opposition and public, many of such leaders have managed to carve lasting legacies for themselves for which they are continually revered by subsequent generations.
What better way for Stuart to self-fulfil his prophecy by doing what Owen Arthur had promised but had failed to deliver.
It should be remembered too, that the Barbadian Prime Ministers with the most enduring legacies are the ones who have advanced political development, as opposed to those who have merely saved or advanced the economy.
Thus, while Grantley Adams [as premier], Errol Barrow, Tom Adams and Owen Arthur may be possibly counted among the leaders who can lay claims to a future political legacy, it is only over the inclusion of the latter two in the pantheon of great prime ministers that debate continues to rage.
Grantley Adams and Errol Barrow are assured of their places in history because universal adult suffrage and political independence are lasting legacies. With the Privy Council already replaced by the Caribbean Court of Justice, Stuart can easily earn his place in history by being the leader who ended the historical embarrassment of having the British monarch as the head of state of independent Barbados.
In political terms, too, the republicanism issue can expect easy passage in Barbados. At the very least, it should anticipate easier passage than the recent experience in St Vincent.
The Vincentian stumbling block was the political division over the issue along myopic party political lines. With the Barbados Labour Party being the original proposer of republicanism, it can be held to account if it were to now oppose the move. A rare moment therefore exists for a united, mature voice on Barbadian republicanism.
Stuart should seize the moment, and seal his legacy.