Republicanism in Barbados

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Republicanism in Barbados is a political proposal for Barbados to transition from a parliamentary constitutional monarchy under a hereditary monarch (currently Elizabeth II) to a republic.

Barbados country in the Caribbean

Barbados is an island country in the Lesser Antilles of the West Indies, in the Caribbean region of North America. It is 34 kilometres in length and up to 23 km (14 mi) in width, covering an area of 432 km2 (167 sq mi). It is situated in the western area of the North Atlantic and 100 km (62 mi) east of the Windward Islands and the Caribbean Sea; therein, Barbados is east of the Windwards, part of the Lesser Antilles, roughly at 13°N of the equator. It is about 168 km (104 mi) east of both the countries of Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and 400 km (250 mi) north-east of Trinidad and Tobago. Barbados is outside the principal Atlantic hurricane belt. Its capital and largest city is Bridgetown.

A constitutional monarchy is a form of monarchy in which the sovereign exercises authority in accordance with a written or unwritten constitution. Constitutional monarchy differs from absolute monarchy in that constitutional monarchs are bound to exercise their powers and authorities within the limits prescribed within an established legal framework. Constitutional monarchies range from countries such as Morocco, where the constitution grants substantial discretionary powers to the sovereign, to countries such as Japan and Sweden where the monarch retains no formal authorities.

Elizabeth II Queen of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms

Elizabeth II is Queen of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms.



In 1979, a commission of inquiry known as the Cox Commission on the Constitution was constituted and under the auspices of looking at the republic issue. The Cox Commission came to the conclusion that Barbadians preferred to maintain the constitutional monarchy. The proposal to move to a republican status was therefore not pursued. [1] The 1994 manifesto of the Barbados Labour Party dealt both with the republic issue, proposing a referendum. In line with this promise, on 29 October 1996 a Constitution Review Commission, chaired by Henry de Boulay Forde was appointed to review the Constitution of Barbados. [1]

A republic is a form of government in which the country is considered a “public matter”, not the private concern or property of the rulers. The primary positions of power within a republic are not inherited, but are attained through democracy, oligarchy or autocracy. It is a form of government under which the head of state is not a hereditary monarch.

Manifesto published declaration of principles and intentions of an individual or group

A manifesto is a published declaration of the intentions, motives, or views of the issuer, be it an individual, group, political party or government. A manifesto usually accepts a previously published opinion or public consensus or promotes a new idea with prescriptive notions for carrying out changes the author believes should be made. It often is political or artistic in nature, but may present an individual's life stance. Manifestos relating to religious belief are generally referred to as creeds.

The Barbados Labour Party (BLP) is the main party of government of Barbados which was established in 1938. Led by Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley, the BLP holds 29 of the 30 seats in the House of Assembly of Barbados after MP for St. Michael West, Joseph Artherly decided to become an Independent MP and became the Leader of the Opposition. It was elected to government on 25 May 2018 after 10 years in opposition, with Mottley becoming the country's first female Prime Minister.

The Commission elected Oliver Jackman, a former diplomat and a judge of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights as its Vice Chairman. The Commission was mandated to:

Diplomat person appointed by a state to conduct diplomacy with another state or international organization

A diplomat is a person appointed by a state to conduct diplomacy with one or more other states or international organizations. The main functions of diplomats are: representation and protection of the interests and nationals of the sending state; initiation and facilitation of strategic agreements; treaties and conventions; promotion of information; trade and commerce; technology; and friendly relations. Seasoned diplomats of international repute are used in international organizations as well as multinational companies for their experience in management and negotiating skills. Diplomats are members of foreign services and diplomatic corps of various nations of the world.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights is an autonomous judicial institution based in the city of San José, Costa Rica. Together with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, it makes up the human rights protection system of the Organization of American States (OAS), which serves to uphold and promote basic rights and freedoms in the Americas. The Court rules on whether a State has violated an individual's human rights, rather than if individuals are guilty of human rights violations.

1. “determine the necessity for retaining the Monarchical System of Government and make recommendations in respect of the Executive form of Government most suited to protect parliamentary democracy, the fundamental rights and freedoms of the citizens of Barbados and to achieve effective and efficient Government so as to position Barbados to meet the challenges of the 21st century and beyond.
2. To advise and make recommendations concerning the appropriateness or otherwise of maintaining Barbados’ link with the Crown.
3. To advise and make recommendations concerning a structure for the Executive Authority of Barbados that is best suited to protect the Independence and Authority of Parliament and the fundamental rights and freedoms of its citizens.” [1]

The Commission held public hearings in Barbados and overseas. [1] The Commission reported back on 15 December 1998, and submitted its report to the Governor-General of Barbados.

Governor-General of Barbados

The Governor-General of Barbados is the representative of the Barbadian monarch. Under the government's Table of Precedence for Barbados, the Governor-General of Barbados is regarded as being the most important of all personnel of the Barbados government.

The Commission recommended that Barbados adopt a Parliamentary republic system. In 1999 the Barbados Labour Party's Manifesto proposed that the findings of the Commission and its recommendation that Barbados become a republic would receive the early attention of the Government. [1]

Parliamentary republic type of republic which operates under a parliamentary system

A parliamentary republic is a republic that operates under a parliamentary system of government where the executive branch derives its legitimacy from and is accountable to the legislature. There are a number of variations of parliamentary republics. Most have a clear differentiation between the head of government and the head of state, with the head of government holding real power, much like constitutional monarchies. Some have combined the roles of head of state and head of government, much like presidential systems, but with a dependency upon parliamentary power.

A Referendum Bill was introduced in Parliament and had its first reading on 10 October 2000. With the dissolution of Parliament just prior to the elections in 2003, the Referendum Bill was not carried over. [1] A referendum on the issue was proposed again in 2008, but was never held.

2008 proposed referendum

A referendum on Barbados becoming a republic was planned to be held in Barbados by August 2008, near to the time of the parliamentary elections. [2] However, it was reported on December 2, 2007, that the vote was to be held at a later date instead. [3]


According to the Referendum Act 2005, [4] the question to be asked is:

Do you agree with the recommendation of the Constitution Review Commission that Barbados should become a Parliamentary republic with the head of State of Barbados being a President who is a citizen of Barbados?


The Government of Barbados announced its intention to hold a referendum on the republic issue in February 2005. [5] It introduced a Referendum Bill that month. [5] The Bill was passed into law in October 2005. The Act did not set a date for the referendum, but instead specified that the "Referendum Day" could be proclaimed by the Governor-General, being no more than 90 days and no less than 60 days from the date of proclamation. [4] The Act itself could not amend Barbados' constitution, because under section 49.1 a majority of two-thirds of Parliament is required to make any amendments. [6]

Mia Mottley, who was Deputy Prime Minister of Barbados, said: "we feel that it is the right thing to do to have a Barbadian head of state. We accept that there was a concern that the Government alone should not make that decision in this day and age and we are therefore committed to expressing our views to the public and having them pass judgement on it." [7]

2015 proposal

On 22 March 2015, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart announced that Barbados will move towards a republican form of government "in the very near future". Stuart told a meeting of his Democratic Labour Party: "We cannot pat ourselves on the shoulder at having gone into independence; having de-colonised our politics; we cannot pat ourselves on the shoulders at having decolonized our jurisprudence by delinking from the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and explain to anybody why we continue to have a monarchical system. Therefore, the Right Excellent Errol Barrow decolonized the politics; Owen Arthur decolonized the jurisprudence and Freundel Stuart is going to complete the process." [8]

The general secretary of the Democratic Labour Party, George Pilgrim, confirmed the move and said that it is expected to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Barbadian independence in 2016. According to Pilgrim, the change will be implemented through a bill that will be presented to the Parliament of Barbados. [9]

According to the country's Constitution, a two-thirds majority in Parliament is needed to authorize the change. The Democratic Labour Party has a two-thirds majority in the Senate of Barbados but not in the House of Assembly where it would need the support of the opposition Barbados Labour Party to approve the transition. Mia Mottley, now the Leader of the Opposition, has not commented on the Prime Minister's proposal. [10] However, the Barbados Labour Party has advocated the adoption of a republican system in the past when it was in power. [5]

In the event that Barbados becomes a republic, it will retain its membership of the Commonwealth of Nations. [11]

See also

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Barbados Labour Party - news". 11 February 2005.
  2. Staff writer (26 November 2007). "Referendum on Republic to be bundled with election". Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 28 November 2007. Retrieved 23 June 2010.
  3. Gollop, Chris. "VOTE OFF". Nation Newspaper . Archived from the original on 28 December 2007. Retrieved 23 June 2010.
  4. 1 2 "Referendum Bill" (PDF). Parliament of Barbados. 2005. Retrieved 2009-01-28.
  5. 1 2 3 Norman 'Gus' Thomas. "Barbados to vote on move to republic". Caribbean Net News. Archived from the original on 2007-12-28.
  6. "Constitution of Barbados, Section 49 - Altering the Constitution". Government of Barbados. Retrieved 2009-01-29.
  7. S., D. (26 November 2007). "Still a voice". Nation Newspaper . Archived from the original on 28 November 2007. Retrieved 23 June 2010.
  8. "PM says Barbados moving towards Republic". Jamaica Observer. 23 March 2015. Archived from the original on 24 March 2015. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  9. "Barbados plans to replace Queen with ceremonial president". The Guardian. 23 March 2015. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  10. "Barbados to remove Queen Elizabeth II as titular head of state". Globe and Mail. Associated Press. 23 March 2015. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  11. "Barbados PM says island will replace the Queen and move towards republic". The Daily Telegraph . 23 March 2015.