Experts discuss views on Antigua and Barbuda becoming a Republic

Carlon Knight, Beverly Benjamin-George and Dr George Braithwaite were guests on yesterday’s Big Issues Programme. (Social media photos)
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By Makeida Antonio

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The Caricom country Barbados officially became a Republic last Tuesday, which has some professionals discussing what it would take for Antigua and Barbuda to join its regional sister.

Political and Social Commentator Carlon Knight is of the view that Antigua and Barbuda should not prioritise becoming a Republic at this time. Instead, he suggested that other structural issues should be addressed before making such a move.

“We tend to get caught up a lot in gesture politics because the more complex issues of nation building that really speak to structural issues that affect the poor and disenfranchised are far more difficult to do,” Knight said on Observer’s Big Issues show yesterday.

He alluded to a possible politicisation of becoming a Republic, which he believes would not have any significant benefit to people’s daily lives.

Rather than try our best to divert our energies towards these structural issues, we tend to say well ‘I think these gestures will get us an election victory, they’ll make us look as if we are doing something, we’ll get our names in the paper’. In reality, what you’re doing has not in any way addressed to my mind the real issues affecting the majority of people,” the political commentator argued.

However, Knight indicated that while he is not against the legal and socio-economic processes, he remained concerned about the need for tangible evidence that residents will be granted a higher standard of living today.

“If it is that you get this Republic with a quick legislative pass in Parliament and you take down the Queen’s picture and elevate Sir Rodney’s picture then let’s just be done with it because in my mind, it doesn’t really present anything that I think is going to lead to major structural reform that increase the productivity or outcomes or better the livelihoods of people in Antigua and Barbuda.

“After we fete and dance and have all this hoorah about becoming a Republic, the lives of people remain the same,” Knight said.

Meanwhile, Attorney-at-Law Beverly Benjamin George, another contributor to the show, is of the opinion that it is long overdue for Antigua and Barbuda to make the transition.

She also indicates that other changes will be included into the process noting that Barbados did not make the move overnight, as becoming a Republic comes with ancillary changes behind the scenes.

“It was proposed in Barbados for decades and it was postponed and what we are seeing is what is published to the public but there are so many things that happened along with this such as their constitution change, Mia Mottley changing the financial impediment to people getting higher education because she understands that the best public is an educated public. It’s not just about a name change, “Benjamin-George stated.

Psychology Lecturer at UWI Cave Hill Campus Dr George Braithwaite also shared similar sentiments, illustrating that becoming truly free as a sovereign nation is indicative of the will of the people.

“On the basis of it, we have been lingering on colonial premises for far too long and it is about time that the Caribbean recognizes its importance and worth and build its confidence, educate its people, share the information that is necessary so that it would be a popular decision,” Dr Brathwaite added.

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