ALL AH WE IS ONE: Stuart’s republic
IT IS A TELLING INDICATION of the state of public consciousness of Barbados that when the country woke up to the out-of-the-blue declaration by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart of his intention to move the country to republic status, no serious commentator found it possible to separate the announcement from the deeper social and economic challenges of Barbados.
Almost everyone has greeted the Prime Minister’s announcement as a cynical ploy designed to distract the country not only from a recent poll showing the popularity of the Prime Minister and his administration at troubling lows, but also to divert attention away from pressing immediate challenges such as the CLICO debacle and the general failure of the economy.
What therefore should have been received as a universally welcomed final step by a mature citizenry towards its proud self-realization of its full sovereignty, has been greeted with a mixture of suspicion, cynicism, derision and dismissiveness. The message has been somewhat sullied by the messenger. No poll could reveal more clearly the current level of trust and confidence in the ruling administration.
It would be a mistake however, for Barbados to allow its present transitory feelings towards the ruling government to deny the necessity of taking this necessary step in its formal decolonisation.
If Prime Minister Stuart has sensed the waning popularity of his administration, and wants to go down in history as making a significant contribution to Barbados’s political development, then the public should not distract itself by placing small things before big things.
Stuart should be supported for “doing something” in the context where his legacy has been largely associated with “undoing” the more positive aspects of the post-colonial development of Barbados.
As a political strategy, too, the opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) should avoid falling into the trap of publicly and vigorously opposing Stuart on the republican question. If it is meant as a ploy to sidetrack the public, the last thing the BLP should do is to add to distraction by engaging in a long and acrimonious debate with the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) over republicanism, especially since it was the BLP which last placed the issue on the Barbadian political agenda.
Further, the BLP cannot afford to be seen as so petty that it would oppose in opposition what it proposed in government. Indeed, the BLP can steal Stuart’s republican thunder by insisting that he moves as quickly as possible on republicanism since there is bipartisan support – to allow the country to remain focused on its ongoing troubles. The BLP must also avoid playing into the agenda of the conservative elements opposed to republicanism, thereby appearing less progressive than the DLP.
Finally, the republicanism question is too important to be shaped by anti-Stuart electoral considerations. Public disaffection with the DLP appears to run too deep. Republicanism therefore, will have little electoral impact.
Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus, specialising in regional affairs. Email [email protected]