Thursday 8 September saw one of the most consequential and surreal moments of many of our lives; our sovereign, Queen Elizabeth II, passed away at the age of 96. After 70 years of tireless service to the people of the Commonwealth, and 48 years of service to Grenada as our sovereign Queen, I have seen, unfortunately, certain people use this time of great sadness to call for our island and others in the Caribbean to become a republic.
It is no secret that the political class in our Caribbean region seem to want to rid us of our monarchy and crown, but I wish to write this, at this dark and emotional time, to defend the crown here in the Caribbean, and in Grenada in particular.
The crown’s relationship with its realms, of which Grenada is one, is unique. The late Queen, and now the new King, is our head of state and the ultimate constitutional and sovereign authority in our country. Many people question the value of this link, question why we should still “keep the British monarch” as our head of state.
Firstly, I think it very important to make something clear: Grenada does not have the British monarch as head of state. The Grenadian Crown and the Crown of the United Kingdom are, legally, two entirely separate and distinct entities.
In all Grenadian matters, His Majesty is solely King of Grenada. In other words, King Charles III of the United Kingdom and King Charles III of Grenada are, legally and constitutionally, two entirely different people. The Grenadian monarchy is our own, it is a wholly Grenadian institution, beholden to Grenadian laws and based on the Grenadian Constitution. Beyond this, the crown’s constitutional importance in Grenada cannot be understated.
The King, represented by our esteemed Governor-General, is the pinnacle of our government system. Crucial constitutional functions are carried out by the crown. The GG gives royal assent to laws so that they take effect, appoints the Prime Minister and members of cabinet, dissolves parliament for new elections and subsequently opens it, and appoints senators to the upper house of Parliament, to name but a few powers of the crown.
The crown is, usually, a ceremonial institution. This must however not be construed, as is by many republicans, to mean that the crown is powerless or useless. The crown is a guardian of our constitution, a reactive force which can prevent our politicians from seriously overstepping their legal bounds, and uphold the rule of law.
The crown is nonpartisan; detached from and above our often childish politics and parties, both NDC and NNP. Some may ask, “why can’t a ceremonial president, as in Dominica or Barbados fulfil the same purpose? The answer to this is quite clear: these presidents are not party-independent. They are not above politics. Whereas the Governor-General is appointed by and owes loyalty to the King of Grenada, these presidents are elected by parliament. This means the politicians of the governing party get free reign to choose one of their own party to fill the top job.
Common people don’t get a say. As politicians do, they’ll usually base their choice on who has the most rigorous party loyalty, and will be the most pliable puppet. Do you think an NNP President, elected by the NNP, would ever act against Keith Mitchell?
I can already hear the protestations of republicans: “but the Governor-General is appointed on the advice of the Prime Minister that means they’re just as beholden as a president to the governing party!” And while yes it is true that the GG is appointed on the advice of the PM, this is a false equivalence. The GG swears loyalty to the king, and the King can refuse to appoint a thoroughly unsuitable candidate for GG.
We have concrete examples of the crown throughout the Commonwealth holding their governments to account. In Australia in 1975 the GG dismissed Prime Minister Gough Whitlam after he tried to stay in power under grossly dubious circumstances.
In Tuvalu as recently as 2013, the GG dismissed the Prime Minister after he refused to allow parliament to sit, because he knew they would vote to remove him from office. In the case of Tuvalu in fact, the PM, hoping to prevent the GG from stopping his grossly unconstitutional attempts to stay in office, ordered the Queen to dismiss the Governor-General and replace him with someone more pliable. The Queen refused.
Another accusation routinely levied against the monarchy, particularly here in the Caribbean, is the accusation it is colonialist and somehow racist. As pointed to earlier, the British monarchy no longer has any role in Grenada, our Grenadian monarchy is an entirely separate institution.
The monarchy and Royal family have always been the greatest, most reconciliatory bridge builders in the entire Commonwealth. The crown always supported colonial independence movements; it was always a member of the Royal family, not a representative of the British government, who attended independence celebrations and congratulated former colonies upon achieving independence.
The Queen herself was an outspoken opponent of Apartheid in South Africa and the white-minority government in Rhodesia (today’s Zimbabwe). King Charles is no different and continues his mother’s bridge building legacy. This was exemplified by his beautiful speech at the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali.
The monarchy is an integral part of our history, heritage and culture. It is the system of government under which we gained sovereignty; the system the fathers of our independence wished for us to have. These great men, who led us out of the British Empire, with the full support and encouragement of the crown, saw the value in the monarchy. They saw that it is a symbol of our independence, which acknowledges and embraces our history and heritage.
Today in contrast, we see our political leaders lambasting the monarchy and any constitutional system inherited from Britain; be it the appointed Senate, division between head of state and government, the Privy Council, or even the very concept of parliamentary government, as colonial relics which must be purged from our islands.
This is in stark contrast to the ideas and wishes of the fathers of West Indian independence, perfectly encapsulated in the words of the late great Norman Manley, Premier of Jamaica and founder of the People’s National Party: “Let us not make the mistake of describing as colonial, institutions which are part and parcel of the heritage of this country. If we have any confidence in our own individuality and our own personality, we would absorb these things and incorporate them into own use as part of the heritage we are not ashamed of. I am not ashamed of any institution which exists in this country merely because it derives from Britain”
Finally, our ties to the monarchy gives us something very concrete which many Grenadians cherish and rightly see as important: the King’s (formerly Queen’s) awards. As a monarchy, Grenadians have access to being given distinguished, world renowned royal awards such as the British Empire Medal, Order of the British Empire, Order of St. Michael and St. George or the Royal Victorian Order, to name but a few.
As a monarchy, Grenadians have the opportunity to be knighted by the king, gaining the exclusive and world-respected title of Sir or Dame. Likewise, our eminent lawyers and jurists may be appointed King’s (formerly Queen’s) Counsel, another extremely distinguished and internationally respected title, which truly exemplifies the outstanding stature of these individuals.
As a republic, Grenadians would not have access to any of this. We would never have the chance to see a Sir Kirani James or Sir Anderson Peters. Our eminent persons would lose the ability of being given some of the most highly regarded, respected and sought after honours and awards in the entire world. We would be robbing our youth and talent of these incredible milestones to work towards and achieve.
In closing, our nation is blessed to have its crown, and its position in our country is far more important than many may imagine. I pray you, my fellow Grenadians, do not fall prey to the self-serving republicanism of politicians. We must defend the Grenadian monarchy, especially now that we have lost our beautiful, beloved Queen.
I know many of you feel this loss and we can all feel solace in the knowledge that Her Majesty is in heaven with her beloved husband, Prince Philip. God Save the King!
Loyal to Grenada