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Friday, May 24, 2024

CARIBBEAN COUNTRIES PLAN TO DEBATE ABANDONING MONARCHY AFTER CORONATION

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Two Caribbean countries plan to debate whether to abandon King Charles III as their head of state in the wake of the Coronation.

The King last month issued a rallying cry to the Commonwealth to “unite and be bold” to reach its “near-boundless potential” as a force for good.

But the association of former territories of the British Empire has in recent months come under increasing strain, with the leaders of several of the 15 countries of which the King is head of state announcing their desire to form a republic.

Ralph Gonsalves, the prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, said he would like to see his country do away with “the absurdity” of having a British monarch as its head of state during his lifetime.

It is unclear whether Mr Gonsalves’ republican views are widely shared by the population of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the majority of whom voted against abolishing its monarchy, headed by Queen Elizabeth II, in 2009.

Mr Gonsalves also said he would welcome an apology from the British state and monarchy regarding past injustices relating to slavery, adding that he believes the King would be open to talking about reparations.

His comments were echoed by Terrance Drew, the prime minister of the Caribbean nation of St Kitts and Nevis, who said his country would debate removing King Charles as head of state and becoming a republic.

Jamaica and Belize announced similar intentions last week on the eve of the Coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla.

Dr Drew said his country would never be “totally free” until it broke its constitutional links with the British monarchy.

He also said that the British monarchy should apologise for its past links to the transatlantic slave trade.

Dr Drew, who became premier last August, intends to start a public discussion on whether the tiny, two-island country in the Caribbean should become a republic.

Recognising past wrongs

Last month, the King expressed his support for the first time for research into the links between the monarchy and the transport of millions of African slaves to the Americas.

Buckingham Palace said Charles took the issues “profoundly seriously”, and the Royal household would help with the academic project by offering access to the Royal Collection and the Royal Archives.

“I think that acknowledging that… something wrong was done, acknowledging it and apologising for it, is a step in the right direction,” Dr Drew told the BBC in Basseterre, the capital of St Kitts and Nevis.

“Discovered” by Christopher Columbus in 1493, St Kitts was the first successful English colony in the Caribbean after settlers arrived in 1623.

Neighbouring Nevis was settled by the English in 1628 and sugar cultivation was established on both islands.

Although the country obtained independence from Britain in 1983, it remained part of the Commonwealth and retained the British monarch as its head of state. The Crown is represented by a governor-general.

As the islands were among the first to be colonised by Europeans, they were known as “the mother colony of the West Indies”.

‘We are not acting like victims’

Dr Drew raised the issue of reparations for centuries of slavery, which could take the form of cash payments to individuals, the cancellation of national debt or simply a formal apology.

“We are not just speaking about a monetary contribution, because we are not acting like victims,” he said.

“It is about real changes, even within the systems that are still affecting people of African descent in negative ways.”

Last week, just two days before the Coronation in Westminster Abbey, Johnny Briceno, the prime minister of Belize said it was “quite likely” his nation would be the next Commonwealth country to become a republic after Barbados, which removed the British monarch as its head of state in 2021.

No excitement for the Coronation

Mr Briceno said there was “no excitement” in his country for the Coronation, adding: “We are so far away from the UK. You don’t see people taking out their Union Jack flags or anything.”

On the same day, Jamaica said it might hold a referendum on a change to its constitution, which will further distance the Commonwealth country from the UK, as early as next year.

Marlene Malahoo Forte, Jamaica’s minister of legal and constitutional affairs, said the former British colony could soon “sever ties” with the monarchy, stressing that the time had come for the nation’s future to be “in Jamaican hands”.

Jamaica is looking to write a new constitution… which will sever ties with the monarch as our head of state. [The] time has come – Jamaica in Jamaican hands. My government is saying we have to do it now – time to say goodbye.” Source: telegraph.co.uk

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