Referendums should decide political status

first_imgDear Editor,Reference is made to a letter from Oscar Ramjeet in which he makes mention of an Act by St Vincent Government mandating no longer swearing to the Queen (GT June 3). Mr Ramjeet has been advocating for Caribbean regional governments and dependent territories to make a complete break with England – including removing the Queen as Head of State and the Privy Council as the final court of appeal. It is not clear what gains will be made by such a complete or even a partial break when former colonies are struggling to stay afloat economically and dependencies are begging the Mother countries to remain under their apron. The latter are saying they are better off with the umbilical cord tied to the mother rather than go on their own.Can Mr Ramjeet please tell us what will St Vincent gain by stop making reference to the Queen? By how much will the economy and standard of living grow? How much more freedom will Vincentians have? Would they be allowed to freely criticise Gonsalves and his ruling party without having to worry about political or economic victimisation? Isn’t it better to call the Queen’s name and be a wealthy country (receiving large amounts of aid and visits from British people) than stop calling her name (title) and become a pauper like “Haiti” or Somalia or Mali?Studies have shown that country after country that severed ties with the UK has seen regression rather than progress; standard of living has declined precipitously for most former colonies. Analogously, standard of living in dependent territories has risen and is much higher than independent colonies (countries).How many independent countries in the Region or in Africa or anywhere in the world has a higher standard of living than Bermuda or Anguilla or Turks, all of which still honour “Her Majesty” and make reference to the Queen? With regard to standard of living, just looking at Guyana, Guyana’s standard of living in 1992 was a mere fifth of what it was before the break from England in 1966.During the 1980s, Professor Clive Thomas penned, in a study, that slaves were better off than people in independent Guyana in terms of their quality of life. Guyanese who experienced colonial rule said they were far better off under the “White man” than today or under nationalist rule (independence) or what passes for governance. The standard of living in dependent Anguilla is higher than Guyana.Every country that retains ties (dependency status) with England has been receiving tens of millions of dollars in aid annually from Mother England enjoying a standard of living almost at par with the UK. Same is true of those territories that retain ties with France, America and Holland. Those that still retain the Queen as Head of State also receive substantial aid from Her Majesty’s Government. In addition, English tourists vacation in these former colonies (now independent countries) or current colonies (like St Martin and Aruba), benefiting the economy enormously.If the leaders of these countries want a complete break with the UK or Holland or France or the US, it should be done by a referendum and not by some self-serving corrupt politicians who seek to strengthen their powers at the expense of the people. Ralph Gonsalves is violating the verdict of the population in a referendum he called a few years ago. The voters completely rejected his plan to break with the Queen. Since he now feels so strongly about it (not mentioning the Queen in the Constitution or in governance), why not put it to a vote. If he believes in democracy and people’s empowerment, let the people decide the issue.It is public knowledge that none of the former colonies (now independent countries) have given their population a vote to determine their political status. The dominant elite (of the colonial authority and the political parties and would-be rulers who wanted to replace the privileged British class) arrogated unto themselves to decide what would be best for the population – independence.In places (British territories) where the population was given the vote to decide on their political status, they rejected independence outright. They preferred an associated status with Mother England as is the same with all of the remaining UK dependencies. The same holds true for Dutch and French territories. The people of dependent territories (Turks, Caicos, Anguilla, Virgin Islands, Aruba, Martinique, French Guiana, Saba, Bermuda, Bonaire, Tahiti, Bora Bora, etc) absolutely do not want independence. Voters consistently rejected independence in referendums. Even Puerto Rico, Guam US Virgin islands, etc. do not want to be freed from US rule. One should not forget that Scotland was given the vote to decide on its status (independence) two years ago and they rejected it.As Ramjeet noted, voters in St Vincent and Grenadines rejected a complete break from England via a referendum a few years ago. They have greater faith in the Queen and in the British Privy Council as their final court of arbiter and as their ruler than Ralph Gonsalves. They felt they would get justice from England rather than from their local judges in the Region who are owned by political interests and other corrupt figures. Scholars have noted that Privy Council judgments are independent of political influence; many rulings in the Region were overturned by independent Judges from the Privy Council. Politicians always seek to intervene in court’s judgments in the Caribbean. Burnham did in Guyana. Eric Williams did in Trinidad. Thus, it is better to have an independent judicial institution outside of political influence.It should also be noted that Jamaicans, Bajans, etc, all rejected a complete break from UK. Retaining ties to the UK bring certain benefits and status to colonies and independent countries; enormous aid flow in. the parties in Jamaica repeatedly promised a referendum on ties with England, only to renege on it because popular opinion has consistently been against breaking such ties. The Governments of Belize and Barbados promised a referendum on severing ties with the London Privy Council. They decided against the referendum and simply replaced the Privy Council with the CCJ. The rulers recognised the voters would reject their ill-conceived plan to replace the Privy Council with the CCJ. Mr Ramjeet should call for referendums if the countries want to break completely from England. That is what democracy is about.If politicians feel retaining the Queen as Head of State or the Privy Council are too colonial, let the people decide. Politicians need to stop arrogating unto themselves what they think is best for the people. So far, they have been wrong on almost every decision they made, impoverishing their nations.Yours truly,Vishnu Bisramlast_img

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