by Curlan Campbell
- 76.4% out of 150 Grenadians polled wanted Grenada to become a republic
- Referendum in Grenada requires 2/3 majority vote
- Dominica became republic upon achieving independence in 1978
The Grenada National Reparations Committee (GNRC) is seeking feedback from Grenadians regarding their stance on Grenada becoming a republic. So far, preliminary results suggest that 76.4% out of 150 Grenadians at home and in the diaspora who participated in the survey wanted Grenada to become a republic, with only 8.3% answering “No”, while 15.3% were undecided.
This poll, described as unscientific and non-random, is being carried out by the GNRC and was conducted as renewed calls were made by Arley Gill, Chairman of the GNRC, for Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique to cut historical ties to the British Monarchy following Barbados’ removal of Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state in 2021. His call follows an increase in anti-monarchy movements in the Caribbean in support of republicanism in response to the painful legacy of British colonialism and slavery in the region. This conversation over republicanism was further ignited in the region following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, making King Charles III the new head of state in some 15 territories.
For constitutional monarchies like St Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, and Grenada to become republics, a referendum is needed to change the constitution. The exception is Belize, which can abolish the monarchy through its National Assembly. For a referendum in Grenada, a 2/3 majority vote is needed. In The Bahamas, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, and St Lucia, a simple majority vote is required in a referendum to become a republic.
Member of the GNRC Angus Martin said the rationale behind the survey was to get some idea of where Grenadians stand on the topic of republicanism, and was linked to the staging of the 3rd Annual Reparations Lecture held on Tuesday, 23 May 2023, organised by the GNRC under the theme “Republicanism in the Age of Reparations.”
But while the majority of those who took time to complete the survey were in favour of becoming a republic, Martin said the feedback also showed that many of the respondents are not fully informed on the subject matter.
“I think we probably need to educate [people] more on what it means and what are the implications or consequences of becoming a republic. People think there’s a cost attached to it, and not just a cost of becoming a republic per se and maybe a name change and all of that. But actually, in that, we might lose financial aid. One might ask, are we getting any money as is, yeah? I think people were confused about how the Commonwealth works. Not knowing that Barbados and Guyana and all these countries are still members of the Commonwealth; and Dominica, [when it] became independent, also became a republic and remained part of the Commonwealth…. So I think there is some definite lack of knowledge on Grenada [as to] what would happen after becoming a republic,” he said.
In the English-speaking Caribbean, Dominica is the only country to have become a republic upon achieving independence in 1978. Guyana transitioned into a republic 4 years after gaining its independence in 1966. Trinidad and Tobago gained independence in 1962 and became a republic in 1976.
Below are some responses from anonymous Grenadians who participated in the survey.
“I support Grenada becoming a republic and don’t support the idea that we need a referendum for that, and just like independence, we don’t need the population to vote for or against that decision that our houses of parliament can easily legislate to bring into existence … I would also much prefer that we undertake reforms of the electoral process to elect all Senators and have the opportunity to vote for additional policy changes by having down-ballot items other than only voting for representatives of the lower house on elections day.”
“I am leaning heavily towards Grenada being a republic. If I needed to vote now, I would vote for departure from the UK. But I would like there to be more discussions on the benefits to be gained from republicanism, outside of simply not having the King as our head of state. If there are merits attached, we need to hear it. If there are disincentives to removing the King, then those need to be broadcast also.”
“I’m not saying it should. I’m saying we should spare ourselves the huge cost of a referendum. I don’t think many people care about it one way or another. Mainly the GG will care. And do we really have to have a PM as well as a president? To perform what function? Let us keep [the] cost to a minimum. But I would like it if we could get that money that Cameron promised us before we break away.”
“We need to look at the direction of the Global Economy and the power of currency… We have not strategically [grown] our economy to consider this move… A perfect example is Bermuda [which] said no to independence because the UK was not willing to leave a substantial quantum in the Treasury for the government… no county is ever fully independent… and I believe someday we should but not now… a list of the benefits should be shared.”
“I am not fully informed on the topic. However, I think that if the monarchy does allow trading for our island to be easier, then it is valid for them to stay as head figure. However, if we are paying them to be said head figure, then that’s ridiculous. So I’ll need to hear that full story.”
Commenting on the responses, Martin said it is evident that some of the respondents are not well informed on the topic, and, therefore, there needs to be more sensitisation by the GNRC.
“I think some of the responses that we saw were that people wanted to wait like until the year 2024-25 before we do it. It wasn’t something that they wanted to do right now. But I also think Grenada is referendum shy. All governments are referendum shy after the 2 [constitutional referendum] failures we’ve had. So I would say we need to do a lot of education and probably a lot of polling, as well,” he said.
As Grenada prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary of independence in 2024, Martin wants Grenadians to reflect on what independence means to us and what the next 50 years should look like as an independent nation. Meanwhile, anyone wishing to complete the survey can click the link below.