Will St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ditch Queen Elizabeth in the November Referendum?

ralph gonsalves

In “St. Vincent Ponders Change to Republic,” the BBC reports “Guyana, Dominica and Trinidad and Tobago among Commonwealth Caribbean nations have done it. Now St. Vincent and the Grenadines is being asked to follow suit and ditch Queen Elizabeth of Britain as the country’s head of state.” The people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (the multi-island state comprising inhabited and uninhabited islands, islets, and cays) will vote in a referendum on November 25, 2009, to change the constitution handed down at the island’s independence in 1979.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves commented that “the end of the monarchical system and its replacement by a home-grown, non-executive President is of immense practical and psychological significance,” adding that “this act of historical reclamation is part of the process of our people coming of age.” The change would also make it easier to replace the British Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice as the final court of appeal for St Vincent and the Grenadines. Gonsalves insists that the new constitution would better secure the fundamental rights and freedoms of islanders, and among other things, would strengthen and reform parliament (to be called the national assembly), also reducing the role of the prime minister.

eustace.estaFor the opposition, many of these changes are merely cosmetic and are perceived as a strategy to influence upcoming elections. New Democratic Party leader Arnhim Ulric Eustace does not believe the government’s claims that the new constitution will usher in an era of far-reaching reforms. Other detractors are angered by several controversial issues, such as the retention of the death penalty by hanging and new clauses to insulate it against “judge-made restrictions” as well as the ratification of marriage as a union possible only between men and women. Gonsalves, along with many Caribbean governments which retain the Privy Council, has been angered by rulings which have effectively ended hangings in much of the region, saying that 90% of the population supports capital punishment. Regarding marriage, the independent Delhi-based Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, while acknowledging that the new constitution makes significant progress on human rights, said the ban on same sex unions has “overtly homophobic implications.”

For full article, see http://www.bbc.co.uk/caribbean/news/story/2009/09/090908_vincieref.shtml

Photos of Ralph Gonsalves and Arnhim Ulric Eustace from http://www.searchlight.vc/default.asp?sourceid=&smenu=107&twindow=Default&mad=No&sdetail=&wpage=&skeyword=&sidate=&ccat=&ccatm=&restate=&restatus=&reoption=&retype=&repmin=&repmax=&rebed=&rebath=&subname=&pform=&sc=1037&hn=searchlight&he=.vc

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s