Plans are being put into place for the island of Barbados to become a republic in the near future, implying that the Queen (Queen Elizabeth II) would no longer be the head of state for the Caribbean nation. Instead, the island would introduce the position of a ceremonial president.
The intention was set out in an announcement made to colleagues by the island's Prime Minister, Freundel Stuart at a recent meeting of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP). The general secretary, George Pilgrim suggested that the change could occur as early as 2016, so as to coincide with the 50th anniversary celebrations of the country's independence. Before the constitutional change can take place, a draft bill needs to be considered and agreed by the country's parliament, but it is not expected that there will be any issues as far as the opposition party are concerned with the proposed changes.
Barbados has long been independent from Britain, taking that decision back in 1966, but decided at that time not to remove the Queen as the head of state. They have long since planned to make that further step at some point, similar proposals being outlined back in 2005 by the former PM Owen Arthur but not completed. They did however change the final court of appeal from being London-based to the Caribbean court of justice in that year. It appears that the timing now seems more appropriate to complete the process.
A spokesman for the Palace confirmed Barbados' right to make the change, stating that "It is a matter for the #Government and people of Barbados" and Downing Street have also confirmed that the matter rests with the people of the country to decide their future.
The small nation, located in the Eastern Caribbean, is intending to retain its membership of the Commonwealth though, hence continuing its connection to Britain through that association. Other countries in recent years have decided not to maintain their membership of the Commonwealth, the most recent of which being Gambia, who withdrew in October 2013 after being a member for 48 years.
While respecting the Queen's position as the head of the Commonwealth now and that of her successors to come, Stuart confirmed that Barbados needed "to move from a monarchical system to a republican form of government in the very near future."
Barbados is only some 432 kilometres in area and has a population of around 280,000 people.
Jamaica have also outlined their intention to make a similar constitutional change in recent times (in 2012), so one wonders if Barbados' decision to proceed may well prompt similar action from them in the years to come.