Which Caribbean Country Will Ditch The Queen Next?
Which Caribbean country will be bold enough to follow Barbados’ example and ditch the Queen of England as its head of state? Will it be Jamaica, which is celebrating 60 years of independence but still has Queen Elizabeth, II as its head of state; or will it be Belize or the Bahamas?
The question has resurfaced as nationals in each country greeted the Queen’s representatives, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate Middleton, with protests, during their Caribbean jubilee tour from March 19th to the 26th.
In Belize, where William and Kate kicked off their Jubilee tour to mark the 70th year since Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation, they were forced to cancel their first official tour after indigenous leaders of one village said they did not want them on their land.
Sebastian Shol, chairman of the indigenous Indian Creek village in Belize, said the royals could land anywhere but not on their land as Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton were due to tour the Akte ‘il Ha cacao farm on March 19th.
The Duke and Duchess subsequently cancelled the visit to the Akte ‘il Ha cacao farm over what Kensington Palace called “sensitive issues” involving the local community. When they touched down in Jamaica on March 22nd, they were also met by protests as many, including Rastafarian reggae artists Mutabaruka and Queen Ifrica urged them to apologize for its role in slavery and to pay reparations to the descendants of slaves.
Both Mutabaruka and Queen Ifrica said the Royals needed to make a definitive statement on their ancestors’ endorsement of the Atlantic Slave Trade. “The mace [in parliament] represents the presence of Queen Elizabeth and her friend dem, and that is symbolism. Black people nuh understand how symbol play a part inna di psychological effect of the people dem,” Mutabaruka told Caribbean Today.
“Why do you think dem have so much statue all ova di place and di naming of the road dem, and di naming of the parish dem? Because when dem don’t deh yah, there is something embedded in the mind of the people dem say is dem run di ting,” he added.
Queen Ifrica was just as scathing. “I’m jus’ here to remind the Queen of England that she ‘romp’ wid some serious people hundreds of years ago when dem turn up on dis island; before colonialism, the people that was here was living in love and unity ‘mongst demselves. I stand here on behalf of dat Jamaica deh weh neva know slavery until the slave ship dem pull up ‘bout yah,” she said.
Prince William, speaking at a state banquet in Kingston, Jamaica on March 23rd, expressed “profound sorrow” at the abhorrence of slavery while speaking at a dinner hosted by Jamaica’s Governor General, who is also the Queen’s representative there.
But he cleverly sidestepped apologizing for the slave trade that enslaved hundreds of thousands of Africans in the West Indies for over 200 years. And in the Bahamas, on March 24th, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were met with protest by members of the Ethiopia Africa Black International Congress Church as they visited the Sybil Strachan Primary School, in Nassau.
The protesters stood with signs reading “Freedom, Redemption and International Reparation Now” as they also demanded reparations for decades of enslavement of the country by Britain.
The Bahamas National Reparations Committee also released a statement prior to the visit saying the Cambridges “and their family of royals and their government must acknowledge that their diverse economy was built on the backs of our ancestors. And then, they must pay.”
Barbados became the latest member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to sever ties with the British monarchy when it became a Republic on November 30, 2021, and appointed a president as head of state. Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Dominica cut ties with the British Crown during the 1970s.
No other Caribbean country has since moved to follow Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s path to true independence. Jamaica’s Prime Minister, Andrew Holness directly addressed his country’s intention to break away from the British monarchy on March 23rd during a meeting with the couple, referencing the anti-colonial protests that took place.
“There are issues here, which as you know, are unresolved, but your presence gives us an opportunity for those issues to be placed in context, to be out front and center and to be addressed as best we can,” Holness said. “But Jamaica is, as you would see, is a country that is proud of its history and very proud of what we have achieved. And we’re moving on and we intend to… fulfill our true ambitions and destiny to become an independent, developed and prosperous country.”
Belize has also signaled its intention to remove the Queen as head of state following the royal visit. “The decolonization process is enveloping the Caribbean region - perhaps it is time for Belize to take the next step in truly owning our independence,’ a Belize government minister said recently.
However, Bahamas’ Prime Minister, Philip Davis, has not indicated any such position telling William and his wife during their tour: “We have been looking forward to your arrival. It’s long overdue. We are delighted you are here.”
It is left to be seen which of the three will be next to ditch the Queen as head of state.
*Howard Campbell is a writer for Caribbean Today. Felicia J. Persaud is a writer and managing editor for Caribbean Today and NewsAmericasNow.com