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Countdown To A Republic: Breaking with Britain again

Krystal Penny Bowen

Countdown To A Republic: Breaking with Britain again

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The Barbados Constitution stands as the “supreme law” of Barbados.

Within this document, the monarch’s representative, the Governor-General of Barbados is given authority to determine appointments of Government officials and Senators, issue pardons and execute duties that affect the process of Parliament, national elections and other government business.

The role and responsibilities are outlined in Chapter IV of the Constitution with the name mentioned consistently in portions throughout the Constitution relating to Judiciary and Appeals with her actions supported by the use of the Public Seal.

Barbados had eight Governors-General and six acting in the role from Independence in 1966 to the present.

In his or her role, the Governor-General acts as a representative of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. He or She who is “appointed by Her Majesty, must act in accordance with the advice of the cabinet or a minister acting under the general authority of the cabinet”.

What is the Royal Prerogative of Mercy?

This English tradition is vested in the British monarchy. The monarch has the power to show mercy to offenders and address any miscarriages of justice.

What is a Public Seal?

A seal is fixed to a document that is issued by a local and state government.

History In The Making: Barbados’ First President Sandra Mason 

Countdown To A Republic: Breaking with Britain again
Governor General Dame Sandra Mason (FILE)

In The Throne Speech of 2020, Governor-General of Barbados, Dame Sandra Mason, announced Government’s intention to become a republic.

It was on October 20, when in a joint sitting of parliament, Dame Sandra was chosen to be the first President of Barbados.

She spent her early career in the financial sector. By 1978, Dame Sandra was a magistrate and tutored at the University of the West Indies (UWI) until 1983. She was also on the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child from 1991 to 1999. She left the family court in the 1990s and served as Ambassador to Venezuela until 1994.

She became Chief Magistrate in 1997 and Registrar of the Supreme Court until 2005. In 2008, Dame Sandra was sworn in as an Appeals Judge – the first woman to serve on the Barbados Court of Appeals. She was the first Barbadian to be appointed as a member of the Commonwealth Secretariat Arbitral Tribunal (CSAT), based in London, England, on January 1, 2014.

At the end of 2017, Her Majesty The Queen, on the recommendation of Her Majesty’s Ministers in Barbados approved the appointment of The Honourable Sandra Prunella Mason, Justice of Appeal, as the eighth Governor-General of Barbados, with effect from January 8, 2018.

Other Caribbean Republics

Dominica became independent and a republic simultaneously in 1978.

The current president is Charles Savarin, who previously held several portfolios as a Minister within the government.

The president of Trinidad and Tobago is Her Excellency Paula-Mae Weekes, a retired Justice of Appeal of the judiciaries of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and The Turks and Caicos Islands and qualified judicial educator. She has been serving in her role since March 2018.

Trinidad and Tobago became independent in 1962 and a republic in 1976.

The president of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana is His Excellency Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali. The 41-year-old is the first Muslim President of Guyana. Since August 2020, he has managed political and national affairs but it has not been without controversy.

He faced accusations of academic fraud and conflicts relating to the multimillion-dollar sale of land, while other charges on real estate transactions were dismissed. According to national media reports, legal counsel for Ali referred to Article 182 of the constitution which protects the role of president.

It states in section 2, “whilst any person holds or performs the functions of the office of President no criminal proceedings shall be instituted or continued against him in respect of anything done or omitted to be done by him in his private capacity and no civil proceedings shall be instituted or continued in respect of which relief is claimed against him for anything done or omitted to be done in his private capacity.”

Guyana became independent in 1966 and cooperative republic in 1970.

Avoiding A “Banana Republic”, Protecting Democracy

In Latin America, Haiti, parts of Asia, and Africa media professionals have witnessed fractures within the political system. The term, “banana republic” is used to describe “democracy in decline” or government in chaos.

The Capitol Riots in the United States of America was an event that brought questions to the perception of democracy and freedom in the 21st Century. The Caribbean, despite having the youngest independent states in the world, is the most peaceful region (major conflict and war). But over the last century and into the 21st Century, there has been political unrest.

In Grenada, under lawyer and political leader of the New Jewel Movement, Maurice Bishop coordinated a coup in March 1979.

Dominica’s leader Prime Minister Eugenia Charles and her government were threatened by two attempted coups starting 1979 to 1981.

In Trinidad and Tobago, July 1990, the Jamaat Al Muslimeen made a coup attempt by holding Prime Minister A N R Robinson and other government officials hostage.

In Haiti, there was also a coup to remove former parish priest, Jean Bertrand in 1991. In 2021, the beleaguered nation faced political conflict when President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in July.

What Type of Republic Will Barbados Become? 

Barbados will adopt the parliamentary republic system with a bicameral structure. As with all political leaders with access to privilege and power, there is concern about accountability, maintaining integrity and eliminating political intimidation and corruption.

During the island’s 55 years of Independence, there have been few political controversies or incidents of social unrest or violent political drama.

The Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) outlined the following concerns relating to Presidents within a republic: how to elect the president, in terms of the electoral body (the whole people, parliament or a special electoral college), the method of voting, the majority required, the rules on candidacy and re-election and the president’s term of office; the powers and functions of the president; and the relationship between the president, the prime minister, parliament and the other parts of the political system.

In the coming months, more information will be revealed about the amendments of the Constitution and the role and powers of the Prime Minister and her Cabinet. (KPB)