Barbados’ current struggle to switch to an elected parliament is part of a historic shift in the British Commonwealth, but it has been years in the making. The move to legislation making the effort permanent is also likely to be a long time coming for the 64-year-old British monarch, who would no longer have de facto control of the five-island nation she calls home.
In 1948, two years after World War II and a year after it declared independence from Britain, the Caribbean island abandoned its parliamentary system and applied to be part of the Commonwealth. One representative — the prime minister of the day — was chosen for each of its five constituent islands.
At its independence celebrations in 1962, national flags flew at half-staff for Queen Elizabeth II, who on that occasion took the throne as the first British monarch of African, Indian and Caribbean descent.
The last president of the recently established Barbados parliament, the controversial councillor for the Basic Health Unit George Bent, had a momentous pronouncement in 1991: “Barbados is not an independent country; we are the queen’s colony.”
It didn’t take long for that pledge to come to a head.
In 1992, the country’s union movement took a vote, which prompted the prime minister to resign.
Since then, the country’s political power has been split down the middle among two parties, one for each island. There are two prime ministers, both of whom have two governments and two parliaments between them.
In 2015, the first attempted transition led to protests. In that time, the country’s longest-serving governor, Cecil Outram, transferred full control to the Barbados government.
In a report by The Sunday Times on May 25, Outram concluded: “I no longer feel comfortable in my role as governor.”