The question of whether or not the time is ripe for the country to finally break free from its colonial ties and remove the Queen of England as the Head of State is once again generating a lot of debate with this year’s commemoration of the 48th anniversary of political independence.
This was one of the areas of concern highlighted by Opposition Senator Matthew Joseph during a sitting of the Upper House of Parliament in St. George’s, on Tuesday, one day after the national independence celebrations climaxed at the National Stadium with a scaled-down fanfare, and an address to the nation by Prime Minister Keith Mitchell.
In his address under the theme, “Overcoming Adversity-Safeguarding Livelihoods – Protecting our future”, the Prime Minister gave no indication as to whether or not his New National Party (NNP) administration will continue to pursue efforts to change Grenada’s status quo.
The Grenadian leader, who is currently serving his fifth term in office, failed at two (2) previous referenda, which proposed for the island to become a republic, among other key changes to the Grenada Constitution, with the last referendum held in November 2018.
In expressing concern over Grenada’s status after 48 years of independence, Sen. Joseph told the sitting: “Mr. President, I am a bit sick as a national when we have to come here as parliamentarians, take an oath and pledge to a foreign entity…I do swear that I would faithfully bear true allegiance to Her Majesty and all her heirs and successors. Are we independent?
“We are pledging allegiance to a foreign entity in England. This is something we need to look closely at as a nation. Mia Motley (Prime Minister of Barbados) took a step, and we need to look closely,” the opposition member told the Upper House as he advanced the argument approximately two (2) months after Barbados became the world’s newest republic with the official removal of Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state.
However, Sen. Joseph was quickly interrupted by Senate President Chester Humphrey, who, although in agreement with the argument raised, pointed to the electorate’s rejection of the previous referenda, and expressed the view that a third referendum would also fail.”
“…I could almost guarantee you that if a third one (referendum) is held, and the outlooks and the constructs are the same then the results will be no different,” he said.
President Humphrey told Sen. Joseph that “contextually when we raise things, we must be conscious of what that context was because people were given an opportunity to amend this provision, and one of the leading sections of the body politic namely the Opposition, called on the people to vote no, and the referendum failed.”
The President acknowledged that “in many respects, we are still a colony, although, we have what is called political independence.”
He added that “the construct of the order, which has been built on the enslavement of our fore-parents, and the wanton genocidal disappearance of our original forefathers, has led us into a construct in which, even though we have declared independence we are still caught within the matrix of an international system which is unfair, leads to persistent poverty of us as a people and in some respects, it may be adequate to describe it as a perpetuation.”
He referenced the reparations movement that has been set up by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government to find the necessary justice following years of slavery.
President Humphrey told Sen. Joseph that he “didn’t have to come into the Senate if he felt so strongly about bearing allegiance,” to the Queen and used the opportunity to remind him that “you, of your own free will came into this House and in my presence and hearing swore that you will do exactly what you find distasteful at the moment…”
However, the former teacher, who received his Instrument of Appointment to sit in the Senate from Grenada’s female Head of State Governor General Dame Cecile La Grenade at her official residence in January 2021, defended himself and his argument stating that taking the Oath under his parliamentary appointment provided him with the opportunity “to be here to say what I am saying now.”
“And, I think going forward we need to look at where we are at not where we were, and chart a way forward in relation to real independence so to speak because it is something that really bothers me as a person, and I know as a fact that quite a number of our citizens are not comfortable with our status,” Sen Joseph remarked.
“Moving forward is critical, and not because we failed once or twice, we should just put it to rest, and continue with the status quo,” he said.