Barbados prepares to ditch the Queen and elect a president

BARBADOS IS preparing to ditch the Queen as head of state and become a republic.

The Caribbean island, home to 250,000 people in a territory measuring 20 miles by 14 miles, would follow the neighbouring former British colonies of Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Dominica if it accepted the recommendations of a new constitutional report. Sir Henry Forde, the former foreign minister, was appointed by the Barbadian government to head a constitutional commission.

He has delivered a 136-page report, which argues that Barbados should remain in the Commonwealth, but elect its own non-executive president to serve for a seven-year term.

The report proposed that the president, who should be at least 40 years old and a Barbadian, be chosen by an electoral college made up of the speaker of the House of Assembly, 14 MPs and 10 senators. Sir Henry said his recommendations reflected "a sense of maturity on the part of Barbados that it can function at the highest level".

Sir Henry's report, which has been submitted to Parliament, follows two years of consultation, which took evidence from Barbadians in Britain and North America as well as on the island itself.

Barbados enjoys a degree of economic and political stability which, combined with its natural and climatic charms, ensures that it remains a first-choice tourist destination. Even though the tourist industry has become the mainstay of the economy and the island's biggest foreign currency earner, Barbados has not developed a dependency culture and Sir Henry paid tribute to the self-reliance of the islanders. Barbados was capable of properly managing all aspects of its national affairs, he insisted.

"We have had the experience of a succession of native governors, all but one of whom have been local Barbadians, and they have discharged their duties with impartiality and decorum and reflected the people's highest values and aspirations," he said last week.

Sir Henry revealed that most of the Barbadians interviewed felt strongly that the island should do away with the British Privy Council as the court of last appeal. He said the court could be replaced by a Caribbean court of appeals or a Barbadian court if that could not be set up within "a reasonable time".

Barbados gained independence in 1966 after 350 years as a British colony.

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