Another Caribbean country is considering removing Queen Elizabeth II as the head of state.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, proposed a single-item referendum asking citizens whether the queen should remain the head of state in parliament or appoint a nonexecutive, homegrown president.
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Gonsalves says he will only push for the referendum if there is bipartisan support.
“I am prepared, if the opposition agrees today, before the end of the year or early next year, to put one question in a referendum,” says Gonsalves. “[And that’s] to have a homegrown president in the manner in which I’ve just described.”
If there’s bipartisan support, citizens will take up the issue by a vote. In 2009, Vincentians overwhelmingly voted against the proposed revised constitution. More than 29,000 people voted “no,” and 22,493 voted “yes.”
“I agree that we are now 12 years away from the referendum,” Gonsalves adds.
Moving Towards Decolonization
Gonsalves is hoping to take a page from Barbados’ playbook.
On November 30, 2021, Barbados removed the Queen of England as its head of state and elected Dame Sandra Mason as its first local head of state.
Barbados has been an independent country since 1966. But the country, along with 16 others that were formally part of the so-called “British empire,” still recognized Queen Elizabeth II as its sovereign head of state until Barbados’ recent decision, as we previously reported.
“It’s not a divisive decision. It’s not a decision that is reflective of any break with the monarchy or any disrespect. In fact, it’s quite the opposite,” says Mason. “We have an excellent relationship with the United Kingdom, with the royal family and we believe that the time has just come for us to boost the confidence of our people.”
It’s a decision that Gonsalves wants for Vincentians. He says if there is bipartisan support for the referendum, then a committee will also be set up to establish national honors.
He says the committee will carry out a process of decolonizing names.
“We change the name of Victoria Park. We change the name of Higginson Street and other places. Murrays Road, cause is a colonial administrator. And we do that, especially at this time of fresh hope,” says Gonsalves.
Gonsalves has suggested the country should move forward with national heroes such as George Agusutus McIntosh, Ebenezer Theodore Joshua, Robert Milton Cato, and JP Eustace, according to Caribbean National Weekly.