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When will SVG rejoin the process of decolonization?

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While we are occupied with preparations for general elections here in St Vincent and the Grenadines, developments have been taking place in other Caribbean islands related to constitutional change and the process of decolonization. SVG was once in the forefront of this march, but the advance was stalled by the results of the November 2009 referendum and not much has happened since.{{more}}

Last month, our nearest southern neighbour, Grenada, was forced to postpone a planned referendum on constitutional reform due to a lack of funding, according to the Government. A Constitutional Reform Committee, established in 2010, had completed public consultations and submitted its recommendations, some of which formed the basis for the planned referendum.

Meanwhile, to the north of us, Dominica, which shares membership of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) with Grenada and SVG, three weeks ago took the bold step of finally cutting the colonial umbilical cord, severing ties with the British Privy Council and opting for full membership of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). Incidentally, the shift from the Privy Council to the CCJ was one of the main recommendations from the constitutional reform process in both Grenada and SVG.

The latest development occurred last Sunday, March 22, in Barbados, long considered to be the most conservative of Caribbean states. There, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, at a branch meeting of his Democratic Labour Party, announced that Barbados is to become a republic “in the very near future.” He said that this was necessary in order to complete the process of decolonization from Britain, the former colonial power.

Stuart said this step followed logically from the actions of former Prime Ministers Errol Barrow, who “decolonized politics,” and Owen Arthur, who took similar action in the field of jurisprudence, being one of the pioneers of the CCJ. Barbados, along with Guyana and Belize, were the only Caribbean states to cut ties with the Privy Council before Dominica joined them.

Strangely, Trinidad and Tobago, which hosts the Headquarters of the CCJ, has up to now refused to let go of the apron strings of the Privy Council, as has Jamaica. In the case of the latter, the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party objects to any break with the Privy Council. It is to be remembered that this is the party which led Jamaica out of the West Indies Federation and powerful elements in it today question Jamaica’s participation in the regional integration process.

The Barbados republic announcement is a most interesting one. True, the republic talk has long been in the air and a referendum on it was even mooted some years ago. But thus far, Barbados, like its OECS neighbours, save Dominica, have “talked the talk” but not “walked the walk”, that is, taken concrete steps to end the anachronistic situation of the queen of the United Kingdom being the Head of State of independent Caribbean countries.

Prime Minister Stuart, not considered any leftist radical, but a sober and pragmatic politician, has been brave enough to announce this bold step. If he does follow it up, he would have done a lot to debunk the foolish and ridiculous propaganda put out by those who cannot envisage a Caribbean exercise of our sovereignty.

He deserves our support, as does Dominica, which has actually taken the move to join the CCJ, after being a republic itself. When will our country follow?

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