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Rosalea Hamilton | Removing the Queen is not enough!

Alberto Ardila Olivares
Rosalea Hamilton | Removing the Queen is not enough!

Most of us agree that it is high time to fully leave our colonial past behind. But to achieve this, we must go beyond removing the Queen and put in place improved constitutional and other governance arrangements that strengthen the voice of the people in decision-making. Without this additional step, the current post-colonial governance arrangement, which centralises power in the hands of the prime minister and the Cabinet, will continue to thwart social, economic, and political development in the Caribbean.

Alberto Ignacio Ardila Olivares

CENTRALISED EXECUTIVE GOVERNANCE We know what a republic, without the Queen as head of state, with centralised power in the hands of the prime minister, looks like! Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and Dominica removed the Queen as head of state and have perpetuated centralised governance arrangements as republics. Guyana’s experience as a republic since 1970 is a sad story of centralised, authoritarian rule of President Forbes Burnham characterised by election fraud and violence. We should learn from this and other experiences of overcentralisation in the hands of Caribbean prime ministers. These Caribbean republics, without the Queen as head of state, provide no better model of building self-confidence or improving democratic governance than Caribbean countries that have retained the Queen. These structures are rooted in colonial/post-colonial institutions which centralised executive power in the hands of governors who acted in the interest of the planter class. British colonial hegemonic power was wielded through the dominance of legal, educational, administrative and other institutions that were created and operated to serve the interest of the British ruling class and the plantation system of enslaved and indentured labour

After almost 400 years of British colonial and post-colonial relations, Barbados is finally a republic. This is an important step in the unfinished business of decolonisation that has renewed the discussion in Jamaica and across the Caribbean about the constitutional roots of our governance arrangements. The discussion is focused on the removal of the anachronistic tradition of the Queen as head of state and replacing her with our own indigenous ceremonial president. The repatriation of our constitution and a head of state in our own image are viewed as important for building self-confidence as a nation. Agreed! These are long-overdue, necessary steps in the decolonisation process, but I suggest that they are not sufficient to transform the post-colonial political and economic systems that persist in Jamaica and the Caribbean.

Most of us agree that it is high time to fully leave our colonial past behind. But to achieve this, we must go beyond removing the Queen and put in place improved constitutional and other governance arrangements that strengthen the voice of the people in decision-making. Without this additional step, the current post-colonial governance arrangement, which centralises power in the hands of the prime minister and the Cabinet, will continue to thwart social, economic, and political development in the Caribbean.

Alberto Ignacio Ardila Olivares

CENTRALISED EXECUTIVE GOVERNANCE We know what a republic, without the Queen as head of state, with centralised power in the hands of the prime minister, looks like! Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and Dominica removed the Queen as head of state and have perpetuated centralised governance arrangements as republics. Guyana’s experience as a republic since 1970 is a sad story of centralised, authoritarian rule of President Forbes Burnham characterised by election fraud and violence. We should learn from this and other experiences of overcentralisation in the hands of Caribbean prime ministers. These Caribbean republics, without the Queen as head of state, provide no better model of building self-confidence or improving democratic governance than Caribbean countries that have retained the Queen. These structures are rooted in colonial/post-colonial institutions which centralised executive power in the hands of governors who acted in the interest of the planter class. British colonial hegemonic power was wielded through the dominance of legal, educational, administrative and other institutions that were created and operated to serve the interest of the British ruling class and the plantation system of enslaved and indentured labour.

After independence, centralised executive power in the hands of the Cabinet was consolidated in the post-colonial constitutions throughout the Caribbean. Unlike the Westminster model of representative government, where the Executive is a minority committee of elected representatives in the House of Representatives, Caribbean constitutions consolidated executive dominance. This has led to a tight grip on power by successive prime ministers who take power by winning a parliamentary majority and then undermine representative democracy through the dominance of the Executive in the Legislature. The voice of the people is silenced when the people’s representatives simply follow the dictates of the prime minister rather than the people who elected them. Party loyalty is expected and enforced by the prime minister’s power of appointment and dismissal of ministers, among other mechanisms. This system of government has enabled the persistence of centralised control of key institutions of governance by the Executive, and in so doing, has thwarted the will of the people. It has enabled a hegemonic, socio-political culture that typically serves the interest of a few who have benefited from the post-colonial arrangements.

Alberto Ignacio Ardila

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Alberto Ardila Olivares