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ALL AH WE IS ONE: Republic for reelection

Tennyson Joseph

ALL AH WE IS ONE: Republic for reelection

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GIVEN ITS political significance, it was initially surprising that the Barbadian public reacted largely with cynicism to the republicanism announcement by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart. Upon reflection, however, it became apparent that the public’s response was a reaction to the perceived cynicism in the Prime Minister himself, which was seen as a re-election ploy.

Recent signs have pointed clearly to the ruling Democratic Labour Party’s (DLP) intention to use the 50th anniversary of Barbadian independence as an emotional rallying for its re-election. From November 2013, DLP independence celebrations were being sloganized as the “road to 50”.

Having dismantled much of Errol Barrow’s post-colonial legacy; and with the name of David Thompson largely diminished by CLICO; and with Stuart’s governmental legacy being largely unspectacular, something more was needed.

By tying republicanism to the 50th anniversary celebration, Stuart has found an issue which can provide a sense of continuous development that can be easily accepted as “progress” and is sufficiently distinctive as a genuine break with the colonial past, to fulfil Stuart’s legacy-seeking claims.

The problem, however, is that Stuart’s announcement has come when public trust in his government is low, suspicion high, and the people most reluctant to crown him with such glory.

Stuart has now come across as heaping cynicism upon economic failure. By appearing so “cynically clever” in placing the deep republican aspiration below the narrow consideration of re-election, and doing it in such a manner as to under-estimate the intelligence of his public in being able to see it as a ploy, Stuart has induced a defensive public reaction, rather than a supportive one. It is like discovering that someone is marrying for money, rather than love.

His cleverness notwithstanding, Stuart made a number of errors which have exposed the ego-centric political intentions of his republican thrust, and hardened public mistrust. First, his announcement at a party meeting, suggested his unwillingness to make the issue a non-partisan objective.

Secondly, by aligning himself to the historical contributions of Barrow and Arthur, and by referring
to himself in the third person (“Freundel Stuart will bring republicanism”), he brought himself too
centrally into the issue, diminished it as a wider Barbadian objective, and invited resistance to it
on anti-Stuart grounds.

It is ill-suited to the Prime Minster to appear so desperate for a legacy and for re-election that he would use republicanism in such a manner. A more mature approach would have been to reach across the aisle and invite the Opposition to join him in taking this final step.

Despite this, however, the Opposition must be very careful to avoid falling on the wrong side of the republican question. In order not to lose credibility it must apply the wisdom of Solomon, and always appear as the genuine mother whose love for the baby, overrides every other consideration.

Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus, specialising in regional affairs. Email [email protected]