Australia’s so-called republicans, and those in the Queen’s fifteen realms, including the United Kingdom, would be foolish to take much solace from the constitutional change rammed through the Barbados Parliament by a political class who are clearly both wary and contemptuous of their own people.
Australia’s republicans tried the same thing in Australia in 1999 where, unlike Barbados, the founders prudently required that proposals for change set out in a bill had to be approved by the voters in a referendum.
The proposed Australian republic would have concentrated the powers of the politicians so much that it would have been the only republic in the world in which the prime minister could have dismissed the president without notice, without grounds, and without any right of appeal.
This would have made, and no doubt was intended, to make the president a puppet.
Instead of joyously suggesting that Australia is now locked into following Barbados, Australia’s republican movement should concentrate on releasing the republican model they promised to reveal this year.
In fact, they have been hiding this model for the last 22 years.
In the meantime, the world’s most famous Barbadian, and one of the world’s greatest cricketers, Sir Gary Sobers, has said what so many Barbadians were thinking. “The Queen was very highly appreciated here,” he lamented. “It will be very sad for a lot of us. It was a bit of a shock.”
To his great surprise, Sir Gary had the rare distinction of being knighted on his retirement by the Queen flying to Barbados for a unique open-air investiture, one watched by vast numbers of approving Barbadians as well as many in the vast cricketing world.
The Barbados republic is a coup by the politicians.
Lurking in the background is a spectre, that of the sinister genocidal billionaires in Beijing who would, by well-placed loans, turn Barbados into yet another tributary state—the world’s new form of colonialism.
Little wonder Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley is building up such a gigantic CO2 footprint flying to conferences to preach the net-zero emissions ideology.
The principal beneficiary will be the Beijing plutocracy honouring its promises to achieve net-zero emissions—the same way it has ignored its clear and express obligations to comply with and indeed honour the binding international law ruling on the South China Sea.
It is curious how many “republicans” in Commonwealth realms seem to favour Beijing.
Paul Keating was the former Australian prime minister who changed Australian republicanism from being an item for idle discussion at dinner parties into the nation’s elite salons. He turned so-called republicanism into a political issue which absorbed too much of the politicians’ and media’s attention over almost a decade.
Despite the view of the political class and the media that it was inevitable, it failed in a landslide, a thumb’s-down by the people, nationally, and in every state.
Keating, who says he knows everything about China because he talks to the top leadership, went on the record at Latrobe University in 2017 to declare that the Beijing communist regime was “the best government in the world in the last 30 years.”
Tell that to the Muslims Uyghurs, Falun Gong practitioners, China’s Christians, and the people of Hong Kong.
Barbados is in a curious position.
In the 2018 election, all the seats in the lower house were won by Prime Minister Mottley’s Barbados Labour Party. One member of this party, Bishop Joseph Atherley, then became an independent to fill, one suspects nominally, the vacant position of opposition leader with increased powers, prestige, and income.
On top of this, the economic situation is appalling. Barbados has the fourth worst debt to GDP ratio in the world with the Mottley government defaulting on its Eurobond debt.
It is ripe for the Belt and Road kiss of death.
The legislation for this politicians’ republic is complicated. Yet it was passed through the lower house in one day and the Senate on another, without amendment and unanimously by politicians all of whom had affirmed or sworn allegiance on the Bible to their Queen at least once.
Not only does this legislation allow the prime minister (with the Opposition Leader Atherley who criticised it but then voted for it) to award the president with a second four-year term, it contains a curious attempt to codify the reserve powers.
When this was considered by republicans in Australia, the then Attorney-General Gareth Evans threw up his hands in despair saying it was impossible.
As to the reserve powers, the constitutional monarchy has passed through two stages. From the Glorious Revolution in 1688 when King James II was forced to flee for trying to turn the country into an absolute monarchy identical to France under King Louis XIV, the new monarchs, invited to take the throne by a revolutionary Convention Parliament, agreed that legislation could only under be made by the two houses of parliament and the monarch and never the monarch acting alone.
But the monarch would remain the actual head of the executive, the model on which Alexander Hamilton based the American presidency.
As a result of the American revolution, the powers of the monarch gradually fell away until Queen Victoria, when Constitutional Monarchy Mark II emerged. Now monarchs and the viceroys in the Commonwealth realms audit the executive and are constitutional guardians.
They exercise most executive powers on ministerial advice, but as constitutional guardians, are vested with reserve powers to enforce the constitution when, for example, a prime minister acts unconstitutionally.
Normally the mere existence of the reserve powers is enough, so they are exercised only occasionally and usually discreetly.
The most famous was in 1975 when the Australian Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, dismissed the Prime Minister Gough Whitlam and ensured an election followed in three weeks’ time.
One reading of the Mottley government’s attempts to codify the powers suggests that this office could be used at some time in the future to effect a coup by the president.
As this question is made nonjusticiable by the legislation, that it cannot be referred to a court, this provision should have surely been subjected to great scrutiny, and of course, the approval of the people after an informed debate.
The nominal leader of the opposition voiced some concerns, referring to anonymous legal advice, but then actually voted in favour of the bill. It should be stressed that this was passed without any proper scrutiny or referendum.
A likely reason for not having a referendum was that in 2009, Ralph Gonsalves, the prime minister of another Caribbean realm, St Vincent and the Grenadines, tried to foist a politician’s republic on to the people.
Perhaps partly because he had had previously shown affinity for those communist dictators, Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro, the Vincentians were suspicious. They overwhelmingly rejected the politicians’ republic, just as in the referendum in Australia and the two in Tuvalu. These have been the only attempts in recent years to turn a Commonwealth realm into a republic.
Clearly the Mottley government suspected or knew that this constitutional change would not have the support of the people. Those who laud this move will make themselves suspect.
This and its possible future as another of Beijing’s tributary states must cause concern especially to the people of Barbados. In the words of the great Sir Gary Sobers, this is a very sad time.
The sadness is not only over the way the Queen was treated but also for the future Barbados and indeed the Caribbean.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.