Antigua’s PM tells royal couple of wish to become Republic

St John’s – Antigua and Barbuda should “one day become a republic”, its prime minister has told the Earl and Countess of Wessex during their Caribbean tour.

Gaston Browne said during a meeting with the royal couple, who are touring the region to mark the Platinum Jubilee, it was the country’s wish to remove the Queen as head of state.

However, Browne acknowledged such a move is “not on the cards” currently.

He also called for “reparatory justice” to compensate for slavery.

The earl and countess met Browne and his cabinet at a meeting on Monday during the third leg of their Caribbean tour.

“We continue to have the Queen as our head of state, even though I should say we aspire at some point to become a republic,” he said.

“But that is not currently on the cards so she will remain as head of state for some time to follow.

“We’re not trying to embarrass you, we’re just trying to build awareness.”

The prime minister also called on the earl and countess to use their “diplomatic influence” to help the country receive “reparatory justice”.

Brown said: “Our civilisation should understand the atrocities that took place during colonialism and slavery and the fact that we have to bring balance by having open discussions.

“You can even use your, let’s say, diplomatic influence to build bridges in achieving the reparatory justice that we seek here in the Caribbean.

“Because the reality is we have been left and bereft of important institutions such as universities and good medicinal facilities.”

The meeting comes after the royal couple were met by protests during their visit to St Vincent and the Grenadines on Saturday, where banners were held aloft saying “compensation now” and “Britain your debt is outstanding”.

Antigua and Barbuda were granted independence in 1981.

In an open letter to the couple, the Antigua and Barbuda Reparations Support Commission asked “why is it so hard for you to sincerely apologise for your nation’s role in slavery?”

Explaining the call for reparations, it added that in the Caribbean “many still live in deep persistent poverty and social despair” and it asked for a “constructive strategy” with Britain and European countries to address economic development gaps in the region.

The impact of slavery also dominated coverage of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s tour to Jamaica, Belize and the Bahamas in March. (BBC)

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