Forward not backward

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Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley announced on Tuesday that Barbados will become a republic on November 30th of this year. This is significant, because Barbados gained independence from Britain on November 30th, 1966, 55 years ago. It would be done come Independence Day, according to Mottley.

Becoming a republic means that Barbados will remove the British monarch as its titular head of state. Most of the former British colonies, upon obtaining independence, continued with the British monarch as head of state. They joined what is referred to as the Commonwealth. Most have since became republics.

Ms. Mottley in a speech on Tuesday said,

“On November 30 this year, our great nation which we love shall become a parliamentary republic. The Cabinet has accepted the recommendations of the Forde Commission, with minor modification, [and] our parliamentary republic shall have a non-executive president.

[The president] shall be elected by the Electoral College of both houses of Parliament, and that president shall be entitled to serve initially for a period of four years, and thereafter can be reappointed for another term.

“We will make amendments to facilitate that transition to a new president to be sworn in on that day of November 30 of this year, and that in so doing, that we start from December 1 the journey of the settlement of the new constitution of Barbados, which will be the subject of extensive consultation and communication with the people of this nation,”

By contrast, in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), the British government is conducting a commission of inquiry into governments past and present. The inquiry was launched by the former British-appointed governor in January this year. The commission’s scope is very wide, and appears to continue in session into 2022.

Sir Gary Hickinbottom is the Sole Commissioner in the British Virgin Islands Commission of Inquiry.  He is an English lawyer.

Many in the British Virgin Islands believe that Britain will suspend the constitution of the BVI and implement direct British rule. The Observer is not in accord with this thinking. Barbados, which is also a former British Colony, gained independence in 1966. St. Kitts and Nevis was the last British Caribbean colony to gain independence. St. Kitts and Nevis became independent in 1983.

Contrast Jamaica declaring independence in August 1962, Barbados in November 1966, and St. Kitts and Nevis in 1983 to the British Virgin Islands returning to direct British rule in 2022. That will not set well anywhere. If the British commission of inquiry finds wrongdoing, then the accused should face the court of law while the British Virgin Islands  continues to greater self-governance.

That march has stalled. The last review in the Virgin Islands constitution happened in 2007. Britain suspended the constitution  of the Turks and Caicos Islands in 2009, and implemented day-to-day Home Office rule. Britain gave a reason for that move to be widespread corruption in that territory.

The islands that  formed the British Caribbean Islands started the march to independence 59 years ago, implementing direct British on any territory in 2022 is worse than any retrograde step that could be considered in modern times.

Britain says that China violated its promise to maintain a separate system in Hong Kong by imposing direct rule. If Britain imposes direct rule in the British Virgin Islands in 2022, can it even shake a candle at China?

A referendum on independence for the British Virgin Islands may fail, because it appears that most residents prefer to maintain a relationship with the UK. Given that constraint, local politicians may want to encourage greater self-governance; a reduced role for a British-appointed governor, and strong and enforceable  guidelines for governance; greater transparency, and an independent prosecutor’s office that can investigate and prosecute corruption.

Coming out of the European Union, the United Kingdom has labelled itself “Global Britain”, indicating that Britain will again be a dominant player in world affairs. The UK has built new ships, and is partnering with the United States – and very recently China and Russia accused the UK of illegally transiting through their waters.

It is the view of the Observer that the UK unnecessarily retreated from the world, and trying to return to the world stage cannot be at the sovereign expense of her few remaining colonies.
Global Britain could end up being a guide for any country that maintains colonies, ceding  the running of the territory to elected politicians with Britain maintaining big brother position for defense, assistance with technical assistance and training.1962 and 2022 .We should be moving forward and not backward.
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