St Vincent PM rules out second vote on abolishing monarchy after Charles visit
Ralph Gonsalves campaigned in the 2009 referendum to have the Queen replaced with an elected president but lost.
The prime minister of the only Caribbean nation to hold a referendum on abolishing the monarchy has said he will not put the issue to a second vote after hosting the Prince of Wales.
Ralph Gonsalves, prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, campaigned in the 2009 referendum to have the Queen, his nation’s head of state, replaced with an elected president but lost.
Known as Comrade Ralph to many in his country, he warmly welcomed Charles and Camilla to St Vincent on Wednesday and at the end of their day-long visit, his official residence was the venue for a governor general’s reception in their honour.
Speaking after the event in the capital Kingstown, the prime minister was asked about the possibility of another referendum and said: “Not with me, somebody else may do that, not me.”
Charles, who is on a 12-day tour of the Caribbean and Cuba with his wife, spoke at the reception and highlighted the importance of the Commonwealth and how its 53 members states can “address some of the most urgent challenges facing our world”.
Mr Gonsalves has been in power since 2001 and describes himself as an “old anti-colonial fighter” who has never taken an honour from the establishment.
He added: “St Vincent and the Grenadines is the only country in the Caribbean where the matter has been put to the people in respect of doing away with the monarchy and having a homegrown ceremonial president.”
The politician said, “they were defeated in the referendum” and that the “Queen has in the country, therefore, a political legitimacy in addition to a juridical one”.
“I’m not a monarchist, but I accept it, the Queen of England not only legally but politically is the Queen of St Vincent and the Grenadines and I accept that,” he said.
St Vincent is one of the Queen’s 16 realms – countries where she is head of state – and in the Caribbean region, other countries include Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia.
Charles held a meeting with the prime minister before the reception and later, after bestowing honours on a small group in a mini investiture ceremony, said the family of nations could work together to tackle climate change.
He said: “As we celebrate the Commonwealth’s seventieth birthday this year, just behind mine, it seems to me that our Commonwealth family remains as vital today as it has ever been – bringing us together to address some of the most urgent challenges facing our world.
“None of these challenges is greater than, as you, ladies and gentlemen, all know, I hope, that of climate change, which poses nothing short of an existential threat to Island nations like yours, as it does across this region, and indeed across the globe.”
Charles and Camilla will continue their tour of the Caribbean by visiting St Kitts and Nevis later on Thursday and will be taken on a walking tour through the capital Basseterre, and be shown local landmarks like the Berkley Memorial and the archway of the Old Treasury Building.
Heritage will be the subject of the duchess’s visit to the Hermitage Plantation House built more than 250 years ago and possibly the oldest house on the island and one of the oldest surviving wooden houses in the Caribbean.
Charles will visit Brimstone Hill Fort and be treated to a colourful display of music by youth drummers and tour the former military base built in the 17th and 18th century before holding a meeting with the prime minister Timothy Harris.