Prince of Wales to reaffirm ‘affection' for Barbados at republic ceremony

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Charles and Camilla at Sandringham – Geoff Robinson

The Prince of Wales is to “reaffirm” the “admiration and affection” between Barbados and Britain as he visits the Caribbean island to watch it become a republic on Monday.

The Prince will tell the people of Barbados it is personally “important” to him to join them for a ceremony to replace the Queen as head of state.

The Queen’s representative Governor-General Dame Sandra Mason will become the first President of Barbados – Heathcliff O’Malley

In a speech at the ceremony on Monday night, the Prince will emphasise the “myriad connections” remaining between the two countries, and their common goals as continuing members of the Commonwealth.

“As your constitutional status changes, it was important to me that I should join you to reaffirm those things which do not change,” he will tell a crowd.

“For example, the close and trusted partnership between Barbados and the United Kingdom as vital members of the Commonwealth; our common determination to defend the values we both cherish and to pursue the goals we share; and the myriad connections between the people of our countries – through which flow admiration and affection, co-operation and opportunity – strengthening and enriching us all.”

The Prince is expected to reminisce about his first visit to the island 50 years ago, and praise the “invaluable contribution” of the Barbadian diaspora in the UK.

His visit is intended as a gracious acknowledgement of Barbados’s decision to replace the Queen as head of state.

On Tuesday, the current governor-general Dame Sandra Mason will become president on the same day as the country celebrates its 55th anniversary of independence from Britain.

It is the first time a senior member of the Royal Family has attended the ceremonial transition of a realm to a republic.

Many Barbadians, regardless of their views, are dismayed at the decision of the ruling Barbados Labour Party (BLP) to push through a major constitutional change with little consultation.

The Prince has previously attended such handover ceremonies as a representative of the Queen, most recently in Zimbabwe in 1980 when Britain’s last African colony became independent.

In 1997 he was present at the handover of Hong Kong, where he watched the lowering of the Union flag and told its people: “We shall not forget you.”

The Prince last visited Barbados in March 2019 during a Caribbean tour with the Duchess of Cornwall.

He was due to land in Bridgetown shortly before midnight local time on Sunday and will undertake several engagements on the two-day trip.

Mia Mottley, the country’s prime minister, will award him the Order of the Freedom of Barbados, the country’s highest honour.

The BLP which won all 30 seats in the country’s lower parliament in 2018, wiping out representation from the Democratic Labour Party (DLP), which then held power did not pledge to make Barbados a republic in its manifesto.

The move has fuelled claims that republicanism has been snuck in through the back door and has been criticised by the opposition leader, Verla De Peiza, who says it is ill-judged at a time when Barbadians are “floundering” due to the debilitating impact of Covid.

‘It’s never going to feel right, if you don’t do it right’

Speaking from her party’s office close to the centre of Bridgetown, she told The Daily Telegraph: “We recognise that without the input of the people giving it the spit and polish, not to mention giving it the legitimacy, it remains an academic exercise.

“It’s never going to feel right, if you don’t do it right. I feel robbed of the experience – it really ought to be that second moment in time, after independence, when the exhilaration of self-realisation is manifest. We’re not getting that feeling. We’re getting the opposite.”

The first rumblings of a potential push for a republic began last year, when the government initially sought to portray changes to the constitution as “cosmetic”, Ms De Peiza said.

Within months, it had evolved into plans for the Queen to be ditched as head of state and replaced by a president appointed every four years.

Ms De Peiza suspects the proposals – which have become reality with striking speed – represent nothing more than a legacy project for the ruling party.

“You can’t claim it is the will of the people, you can’t claim you’re ready for it because there has not been that consultative process, so the only thing that is left is legacy. In our opinion, that’s what this is,” she said.

“But what will be the historical reckoning of this moment, when you suck all the life and substance out of it? You’re left with a legacy, yes, but it may not be a positive one.”

Previous administrations had promised a republic but repeatedly failed to deliver

The claims are strongly refuted by the government. John King, a cabinet minister, said previous administrations had promised a republic but repeatedly failed to deliver.

Alexander Clarkson, speaking on behalf of the Barbadians for Constitutional Monarchy group, said: “If the government can offer a referendum on same-sex marriage and the legalisation of cannabis, why couldn’t it offer one on changing the head of state?

“It was afraid of losing the referendum.”

The fallout from Brexit may also have served as an “example” to the Barbados government, according to Richard Drayton, Rhodes professor of imperial history at King’s College London.

He said: “I think politicians are a little bit wary about using referenda because what people vote on when they come to the ballot box in a referendum is often not simply the question of the day.”

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