Days after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, Antigua and Barbuda became the first of the 14 remaining realms now ruled over by her son, Charles, to openly float the idea of replacing the British monarch as its head of state

‘We are ready?’ Antiguans mulling severing ties with British monarchy

Days after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, Antigua and Barbuda became the first of the 14 remaining kingdoms now ruled by her son Charles to openly put forward the idea of ​​replacing the British monarch as head of state – Copyright AFP CHANDAN KHANNA

Republican movements may be gaining momentum in British dominions around the world, but in the tiny Caribbean paradise of Antigua and Barbuda, residents clearly have mixed feelings about their leaders’ drive to sever this last tie.

A few days after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, Antigua and Barbuda became the first of the 14 remaining kingdoms now ruled by her son Charles to openly put forward the idea of ​​replacing the British monarch as head of state.

It would not be a “hostile act” but “the last step to complete the circle of independence,” Prime Minister Gaston Browne told British broadcaster ITV News, saying he hoped to hold a referendum on the issue within the next three years. .

Whether his people would be willing to take that step is an open question, Brown’s chief of staff, Lionel Hurst, acknowledged during an interview in the prime minister’s office overlooking the port capital of St. John’s on the country’s main island, Antigua.

“We’re not sure yet,” he said Friday. If Brown wins the next general election, due by 2023, the years leading up to any referendum will be spent “selling the idea” to Antiguans and Barbudians.

On busy Market Street in St. John’s, most residents agreed that the idea needed to be sold.

“I think we should stay with the crown. This country can’t cope on its own,” Leonie Barker, 53, told AFP after shopping for groceries ahead of Tropical Storm Fiona, which is due to pass the island Friday night.

Others said it was too early to take a stand.

According to 58-year-old Peter Thomas, education and participation in this idea is necessary.

“I think we have reached a stage in life where we would like to be on our own, but are we ready? This is the next story,” he said.

Fashion designer and singer Kelly Richardson also said the islanders needed more information, adding that he didn’t think it was a “bad idea”.

“I’m open to change,” he told AFP from behind dark sunglasses.

Some could see potential on both sides.

Antigua has already come a long way since gaining independence in 1981, argued local cameraman J.C. Cornelius, so when it comes to removing the queen as head of state, “why not?”

But then again, he added, “unity and one love are really important. So, being with the queen… I mean, why not?

This issue, he said, will require “good careful consideration.”

– “Less than independence” –

Brown’s long-awaited referendum came nearly 400 years after Britain first colonized Antigua in 1632 and then neighboring Barbuda in 1678.

Settlers began growing sugar on the islands, but as the indigenous Caribbean people died by the thousands across the region, they imported African slaves to grow the lucrative crop.

Emancipation finally came in 1833, and many of Antigua and Barbuda’s 97,000 people today are descendants of slaves.

The country, whose economy is now heavily dependent on tourism, has been an independent country for more than four decades, but it’s funny independence, says Hearst, a government spokesman.

“Monarchy in England, we don’t kid ourselves,” he told AFP.

“It’s less than independence when your head of state is not defined by you, but by tradition that is 6,000 miles away.”

However, any control the UK exerts is largely procedural, he said, and its relinquishment is “symbolic”.

“To a large extent, this will have a psychological impact on the people of Antigua and Barbuda, this is its main goal,” he said.

However, the extent to which the wounds of the past have affected younger generations is also the subject of some debate.

Generation Z’s biggest concern is not the nation’s psyche, but its development, 19-year-old student Kemani Sinclair told AFP, pointing to the colorful buildings around downtown St. John’s, some of which have fallen into disrepair.

He argued that the process of holding a referendum to overthrow the British monarchy would be a costly waste of money that could have been spent elsewhere.

“I sincerely believe that Antigua should not become a republic. He’s just not ready,” Sinclair said.

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