The republic of Barbados

Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley -
Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley -

WITH THE election on Wednesday of Dame Sandra Mason as Barbados's first president, the country’s legislature voted unanimously to move from independence to full self-governance.

On November 30, Dame Sandra will be formally elected the island's first constitutional head of state.

She was previously Governor General of Barbados, the last formal representative of Queen Elizabeth II.

Barbados's ties to England run deep; the island was claimed by the English in 1625 – later British – and never changed hands.

Restricting that connection to being a member of the Commonwealth will also mean managing fundamental changes in a country that benefits from being a haven for UK citizens on vacation.

This final separation from the ceremonial governance of the Queen of the United Kingdom and 15 other Commonwealth territories has only three examples in the Caribbean region to guide Barbados. Guyana was the first regional republic, leaving the dominion of the UK in February 1970, and Dominica followed TT in 1978. Jamaica continues to flirt with the concept.

Barbados will find, as TT did, that this is very much the beginning of a process, not the end.

The monarchy ends in Barbados in December, but the challenges the island will face are its own to shape and design.

Forty-five years after the framing of the TT Constitution, this country still finds itself hamstrung by issues such as Thursday's defeated motion, or, earlier, the ethics of defeated political candidates being appointed as senators and the President’s powers in such an eventuality. At regular intervals, it seems, situations arise or are engineered which the framers of our Constitution never dreamed might have to be faced.

Dame Sandra was elected in the same week that TT President Paula Mae-Weekes faced the opprobrium of the opposition UNC, culminating in Thursday's uproarious meeting of Parliament and the Electoral College.

The TT experience since 1976 suggests that Dame Sandra should prepare to exercise patience with the challenges of self-governance and to offer measured, impartial wisdom in the face of disagreement. Her decades of experience as a magistrate, judge and registrar of Barbados's Supreme Court are likely to prove the whetstone for her guidance of the island's future.

In 2005, Barbados was an early signatory to the Caribbean Court of Justice, signalling by this action its willingness to think regionally, a decision that TT – the CCJ’s official host country – is yet to make. Only Guyana, Belize and Dominica have also made the CCJ their final Court of Appeal, rather than the London-based Privy Council.

Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley has not been shy about declaring regional collaboration a strength of the region, so the establishment of its presidency holds significant promise for Barbados's future as a republic and as a major pillar of Caricom.


"The republic of Barbados"

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