Barbados could remove the Queen as its head of state, almost 400 years after it was colonised by the British. The island was under the United Kingdom’s control from 1627 until independence in 1966, but has remained a constitutional monarchy ever since.
The Prime minister, Freundel Stuart, feels that the country’s head of state should not be a foreign woman who has the job because of a history of conquest. Queen Elizabeth last visited Barbados in 1989, 26 years ago, and Stuart promises to present a bill to remove her in time for the 50th anniversary of Barbadian independence. Stuart says he wants his country to become a parliamentary republic – a system in which the people choose a legislature, which then chooses the leaders of the government. According to Stuart it makes no sense for the British monarch to be head of state of an independent country.
There is an air of uncertainty about whether this will happen or not as not all Bajans support the change. Many do not consider this an important issue right now; while others believe the decision should be made by a direct vote of the people – not by Parliament. In fact there have been several plans to make Barbados a republic in recent years, none of which have been acted upon. In 2005, the then Prime Minister Owen Arthur outlined his proposals for dropping the queen in favour of a president but he process was not completed.
Will other countries be tempted to follow Barbados? Many Commonwealth countries, including Pakistan, South Africa and Kenya, have not kept the British monarch as head of state so it would hardly be unprecedented if more countries decided upon this course. However the last country to remove the queen as head of state was Mauritius in 1992. The queen has always made it clear that she believes it is entirely up to the population of any realm whether or not to keep her as head of state, and never expresses an opinion on the matter.