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Republicanism in Barbados is a political proposal for Barbados to transition from a parliamentary constitutional monarchy under a hereditary monarch (currently Queen Elizabeth II) to a republic. A Barbadian would be elected or appointed as head of state according to the 2020 plan.
In 1979, a commission of inquiry known as the Cox Commission on the Constitution was constituted and charged with studying the feasibility of introducing a republican system. The Cox Commission came to the conclusion that Barbadians preferred to maintain the constitutional monarchy. The proposal to move to a republican status was therefore not pursued. The 1994 manifesto of the Barbados Labour Party dealt with the republic issue, proposing a referendum. In line with this promise, on 29 October 1996 a Constitution Review Commission, chaired by Henry de Boulay Forde, was appointed to review the Constitution of Barbados.
The Commission elected Oliver Jackman, a former diplomat and a judge of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights as its Vice Chairman. The Commission was mandated to:
The Commission held public hearings in Barbados and overseas. The Commission reported back on 15 December 1998, and submitted its report to the Governor-General of Barbados.
The Commission recommended that Barbados adopt a Parliamentary republic system. In 1999 the Barbados Labour Party's Manifesto proposed that the findings of the Commission and its recommendation that Barbados become a republic would receive the early attention of the Government.
A Referendum Bill was introduced in Parliament and had its first reading on 10 October 2000. With the dissolution of Parliament just prior to the elections in 2003, the Referendum Bill was not carried over.
A referendum on Barbados becoming a republic was planned to be held in Barbados by August 2008, near to the time of the parliamentary elections. However, it was reported on December 2, 2007, that the vote was to be held at a later date instead.
According to the Referendum Act 2005, the question to be asked is:
Do you agree with the recommendation of the Constitution Review Commission that Barbados should become a Parliamentary republic with the head of State of Barbados being a President who is a citizen of Barbados?
The Government of Barbados announced its intention to hold a referendum on the republic issue in February 2005. It introduced a Referendum Bill that month. The Bill was passed into law in October 2005. The Act did not set a date for the referendum, but instead specified that the "Referendum Day" could be proclaimed by the Governor-General, being no more than 90 days and no less than 60 days from the date of proclamation. The Act itself could not amend Barbados' constitution, because under section 49.1 a majority of two-thirds of Parliament is required to make any amendments.
Mia Mottley, who was Deputy Prime Minister of Barbados, said: "we feel that it is the right thing to do to have a Barbadian head of state. We accept that there was a concern that the Government alone should not make that decision in this day and age and we are therefore committed to expressing our views to the public and having them pass judgement on it."
On 22 March 2015, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart announced that Barbados will move towards a republican form of government "in the very near future". Stuart told a meeting of his Democratic Labour Party: "We cannot pat ourselves on the shoulder at having gone into independence; having de-colonised our politics; we cannot pat ourselves on the shoulders at having decolonized our jurisprudence by delinking from the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and explain to anybody why we continue to have a monarchical system. Therefore, the Right Excellent Errol Barrow decolonized the politics; Owen Arthur decolonized the jurisprudence and Freundel Stuart is going to complete the process."
The general secretary of the Democratic Labour Party, George Pilgrim, confirmed the move and said that it is expected to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Barbadian independence in 2016. According to Pilgrim, the change will be implemented through a bill that will be presented to the Parliament of Barbados.
According to the country's Constitution, a two-thirds majority in Parliament is needed to authorize the change. The Democratic Labour Party has a two-thirds majority in the Senate of Barbados but not in the House of Assembly where it would need the support of the opposition Barbados Labour Party to approve the transition.
In September 2020, the Barbados Labour Party government of Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced in its Throne Speech that Barbados would become a republic by November 2021. The Barbados Labour Party holds a two-thirds majority in both houses of the Barbadian parliament (including all but one lower house seat), enough to approve a constitutional amendment.
If the plan succeeds, Barbados would cease to be a Commonwealth realm, but would maintain membership in the Commonwealth of Nations. One news report stated that Guyana, as well as Trinidad and Tobago, already had such a relationship with the UK: a "loose association of former British colonies and current dependencies".
"The time has come to fully leave our colonial past behind. Barbadians want a Barbadian head of state," according to a speech by Prime Minister Mia Mottley in September 2020. Her predecessor as PM, Freundel Stuart, had also espoused moving to a republican system.
The former Barbadian High Commissioner to the UK, Guy Hewitt, said in March 2021 interviews that the Windrush Scandal in 1988 had left Barbadians with little confidence in the UK. (Some people born as British subjects were threatened with deportation and at least 83 were wrongly deported from the UK.) In Hewitt's view, many believe that the "monarchy symbolizes part of that historic oppression" and the country was due for "a native born citizen as head of state".
Whether the move to becoming a republic can be achieved during 2021 is "not clear", according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. After a request from the CBC in March 2021, the government did not provide a timeline for the process.