Celebration of Wealth and  Privilege and without a Conscience!
Dr. Fraser- Point of View
May 12, 2023

Celebration of Wealth and Privilege and without a Conscience!

Last Saturday, and in fact for most of the weekend, global attention was focused on the glamour, military spectacle, and elaborate extravagance of the Coronation of King Charles III. British residents and visitors had lined areas around Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey and in parks and open spaces and at bars where television screens brought the proceedings to those who could not have been accommodated in the immediate vicinity. It is difficult to beat the British for their pomp and pageantry especially when it relates to its monarchy, having had centuries of experience. We know little about the numbers in SVG that followed the event, but one suspects that a large number did. I was one who followed the event.

Amidst all of that what struck me and commanded my attention for a while was a piece that appeared in the St. Vincent Times captioned “From Slavery to Coronation 2023- Celebrating without a Conscience.” It was credited to SVG’s government MP Saboto Caesar. I must compliment MP Caesar for taking us back to reality, reminding us that while we celebrate the monarch’s Coronation, it was “part of a design responsible for the greatest atrocity in human recorded history.”

He was referring to slavery and the slave trade with its middle passage that brought millions of kidnapped Africans- males, and females across the Atlantic to labour on plantations. He touched on wealth extraction from the colonies and described the event as “Celebration without Conscience”, especially since the British government and monarchy has up to now refused to offer an apology for the atrocities.

It was as though MP Caesar was telling the country that as a government MP, a descendant of indigenous people, and one whose African fore parents were enslaved by the monarchical system, he was best equipped to lead the charge especially since the Coronation was reminding us “that we must rise up, and demand reparative justice in the context of the lavish celebration – a “celebration without a conscience” making reference among other things to the gold-plated carriage.

But I had some concerns about the article. He woke up on Saturday morning to CNN’s live broadcast in his living room of the “coronation of a king.” Not “the king” but “a king.” No reference was made to the fact that his and our Prime Minister was present at that “Celebration without a Conscience.” It is as though he only remembered the occasion because his television happened to be on a television channel that was covering the event. It was on CNN not BBC or SKY NEWS!

Meanwhile our Prime Minister, after the Coronation referred to the king as head of State of SVG as “an absurdity” and wanted to see the relationship end in his lifetime. He could not accept that someone born in the UK could be king of SVG. The constitutional arrangements that existed “offends people in his country in “a psychological way.” What followed was a lot of spinning as he was at pains, it seemed to me, to explain his presence there. He was prepared to welcome an apology from the British state and monarchy on past injustices related to slavery. He admitted holding the King in high regard. He had great appreciation for the king who favours a “mature conversation about reparations.” Asked if the Coronation made him feel nostalgic, he told the reporter that he avoided parts which required incantations and only dealt with those referring to the scriptures, pointing out that parliament took an oath of allegiance to the people not to the King.

Our PM was uncertain if the political directorate would allow the monarch to make an apology. He however felt that present PM Rishi Sunak of Indian descent and a Hindu should have no problem apologizing since he was more likely to be sensitive to issues surrounding colonialism and indentureship. But does it work like that? It might be even more difficult for the Indian Sunak to do so. We have to remember that Britain had three Prime Ministers in 2022. PM Gonsalves while being interviewed indicated that our country wanted a president “selected by our own constitutional process”. I am not sure what was his evidence for he quoted the 2009 referendum with 45 percent of the electorate choosing to replace the Queen by a ceremonial president, falling short of the 2/3 required. But did that not apply to the overall constitution and not its parts? A recent poll by British-Belizean Lord Ashfort across 15 countries indicated that in SVG the people supported retaining the monarch by 63 percent.

I am not prepared to accept the result of Ashfort’s poll where earlier this year he polled 22,701 adults across 15 countries. These included, apart from the Caribbean, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand with much larger populations. His population sample is suspect. He also carries a lot of political baggage. With the exception of Antigua/Barbuda, Jamaica and the Bahamas which showed monarchical support below 50, the other Caribbean countries showed above 50 percent support. Only SVG reached into the 60s. Even without accepting Ashfort’s poll, I believe that there is a lot of ignorance here about the monarchical and republican systems and about government generally. Many of us seem to think that the monarchical system offers us protection and benefits while we equate republican systems with autocracy and dictatorship, forgetting that Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica and Barbados are republics. Before any effort is made to shift to a republican system which I believe we should, serious education and discussion is needed on a non-political party basis. We must move on. The recent coronation should have convinced us that being tied to the British monarchy has little to offer us. Even the 56 Commonwealth body, unless radically organized, will remain as one former director of the Institute for Commonwealth studies at London University described it “an irrelevant institution wallowing in imperial amnesia.”

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian