Stating his desire to end the status quo of having a British monarch as the head of state during his lifetime, the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines referred to it as “an absurdity.”
Ralph Gonsalves has expressed his willingness to receive an apology from the British state and monarchy for historical injustices related to slavery. He also believes that King Charles III is willing to discuss reparations. As the head of state in eight Caribbean countries, King Charles III has faced increasing calls for change.
In the past year, political leaders in the Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Antigua and Barbuda have all indicated their intentions to review their positions as constitutional monarchies. Dr. Terrance Drew, the Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, has stated that his country is not entirely independent while King Charles III remains as the head of state. During his leadership, a public consultation will be initiated to determine whether the nation should become a republic.
During an interview with the BBC just two days after the coronation, Dr. Gonsalves stated that the existing constitutional arrangement is psychologically offensive to the people and that his country desires a president chosen through their own constitutional processes. In 2009, St. Vincent and the Grenadines conducted a referendum to determine if they should shift to a republic. However, only 45% of voters opted for replacing Queen Elizabeth II with a ceremonial president, falling short of the two-thirds majority needed.
Mr. Gonsalves has expressed his desire to attempt another referendum, stating that he hopes it will occur, but acknowledges that someone else may carry on the work if it does not. A recent poll conducted by Lord Ashcroft, a former UK politician and current pollster, revealed that St. Vincent and the Grenadines is among the countries with the greatest opposition to becoming a republic among the 15 nations where King Charles III serves as the head of state. According to the survey, which interviewed 22,701 adults across the 15 countries between 6 February and 23 March, 63% of St. Vincent and the Grenadines residents would reject the idea of becoming a republic, while 34% would support it.
‘Open to conversation’
Buckingham Palace released a statement stating that the decision to transition to a republic is solely up to each member country to decide. Mr. Gonsalves expressed his desire to receive an apology from both King Charles and the British government regarding the legacy of slavery. He stated that while King Charles seems open to discussing the matter, he does not know if an apology will be issued without the involvement of the British state. In response, Buckingham Palace told the BBC that King Charles is deeply committed to addressing the issue of slavery.
Buckingham Palace has confirmed that it is collaborating with an independent study that is investigating the connection between the British monarchy and the slave trade during the 17th and 18th centuries.
According to Mr. Gonsalves, he had approached David Cameron’s government on the matter, but his request was denied. The response he received was that the government was not providing apologies and that they should focus on the future rather than dwelling on the past. Mr. Gonsalves argued that this was problematic since the past has a direct impact on the present. He also criticized the current UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, for refusing to apologize for the UK’s historical involvement in the slave trade. Additionally, Mr. Gonsalves stated that taking the matter to the International Criminal Court was an option.
Mr. Gonsalves stated that they could continue their political and diplomatic efforts, but they also have the option to take the matter to the International Court of Justice. However, he would prefer to have a conversation and reach a mutual understanding on the matter. Despite this issue, Mr. Gonsalves commended the King’s stances on climate change and inter-faith dialogue and expressed his personal respect for him. He emphasized that his aim was not to seek revenge but rather to achieve a reasonable and equitable outcome.