New oath for a new dispensation Guest Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
October 30, 2002

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Constitutional reform is an issue that is generating interest in a number of Caribbean Community states, including Guyana.

This Guest Editorial reprinted here from yesterday's "Daily Nation" of Barbados, raises a new and interesting issue of changing the oath of allegiance in CARICOM states away from a monarch based in London. It is not a problem for Guyana where the concept of 'sovereignty belonging to the people' has been institutionalised. But the editorial points to the new thinking within other CARICOM states and should be of interest to our readers.

CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM and the specific issue of Barbados becoming a constitutional republic within the Commonwealth remain on the backburner of important national issues after an earlier period of emotional debates on retention of the monarchical system and the swearing of allegiance by public officials to Her Majesty The Queen.

But there is now a growing interest in moving way from such an oath of allegiance.

After the recent historic change in Jamaica, St. Lucia has signalled its interest in approving constitutional amendments that would have the head of government, all parliamentarians, judges and other public officials pledging allegiance to the nation state instead of a monarch based in the United Kingdom.

Jamaicans, who attended in their thousands last Wednesday's swearing in ceremony of P.J. Patterson for an historic third consecutive term as Prime Minister, had enthusiastically shown their approval for the change in the oath of allegiance when he pledged "to Jamaica" -- and not Her Majesty -- to honour his obligations in the office to which he was re-appointed.

The Prime Minister of St. Lucia, Kenny Anthony, who attended Patterson's public swearing in ceremony in Kingston, and who also has lead responsibility among CARICOM heads of government for Justice and Governance, was impressed.

Enough, it seems, to now indicate that his own government intends to move in the direction of changing the oath of allegiance, as Jamaica has done. The matter is to be first discussed with his cabinet colleagues to determine how best to move towards such an objective.

Some cynics may argue that it is all symbolic while the monarchical system of governance and the dependency syndrome on the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council remain.

But the symbolism of changing the oath of allegiance can itself prove stimulating in influencing nationalist fervour for an end to the monarchical system in favour of constitutional republican status.

"I believe in the Caribbean; I believe in Caribbean sovereignty," Anthony was to remark after hearing Patterson's historic oath of allegiance to Jamaica. Other heads of government who feel the same about the Caribbean as Anthony does should also consider the value of mobilising parliamentary support for a change in their oath of allegiance as they move ahead with plans for significant constitutional reform.

Here in Barbados, it is time that the public be told what has happened to the process for constitutional reform since the tabling in Parliament of the valuable Report of the Constitution Review Commission.