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Government clarifies republic plans after apparent misunderstandings in UK media  

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Lionel Hurst says suggestions that the Labour Party is influencing the DPP are untrue

By Orville Williams

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The government has maintained that Antigua and Barbuda’s potential transition to a republic is not a priority at this time, despite certain suggestions apparently being made in British media.

Chief of Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister, Lionel Hurst, spoke on the matter during yesterday’s post-Cabinet media briefing, after being informed that some sections of the media in the UK are reporting that it is essentially a ‘done deal’ that the twin-island nation will ditch the Queen as its head of state.

“The stories, I think, are salacious in places like the United Kingdom [because] currently, the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting is taking place in Rwanda and the heir to the British throne is attending in place of his mother, the Queen.

“So, these questions continue to be asked, but we have not made up our minds as to exactly what the future might look like with a President rather than a Governor General,” Hurst said.

The question of republicanism came to the fore a few months ago when Barbados became the most recent territory to make the transition, with Dame Sandra Mason being named the country’s first President.

 Since then, leaders across the region have been inundated with queries on their respective aspirations, and some have indicated that they could follow suit.

Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, has been one of those leaders asked for his position on republicanism, but Hurst insisted that at no time did the PM make any decisive statement on the matter.

“I believe they’re making assumptions that are not accurate. That question was posed to the Prime Minister when the Earl of Wessex was visiting and he made some preliminary comments.

“[The comments] tended to suggest that, at some point in the future, Antigua and Barbuda may very likely become a republic, but it is certainly not on the radar of the Gaston Browne administration at this time,” he said.

The Chief of Staff went on to explain that, while it is not a priority item for the ruling administration, the entire country will be expected to participate when the time to decide on republicanism eventually comes.

“We didn’t think that it would serve any useful purpose at this time, but there will come a time when a referendum will have to be held – unlike in Barbados where there was no referendum – in order to change our head of state from Queen Elizabeth to, I suppose, a President that will either be selected or elected.

“No one knows as yet [how that process will take place], because that has not come to the fore.

“Becoming a republic is a more recent phenomenon. We’ve seen it in the case of Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Barbados and to a lesser extent Dominica [and] we know that it has a psychological impact on the people of the country, but we are not yet at the point where we can persuade the people of the country that it’s going to make life better for them,” he said.

Hurst noted too that the government could take steps to further clarify its position in international media, to prevent any unwanted misconceptions about its intentions.

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