Mixed reaction to Prince Charles as new Commonwealth head
POUNDBURY, DORSET - OCTOBER 27: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales tours Queen Mother Square on October 27, 2016 in Poundbury, Dorset. (Photo by Samir Hussein/WireImage)
News, Searchlight
April 24, 2018

Mixed reaction to Prince Charles as new Commonwealth head


THERE HAS BEEN mixed reaction to the agreement of Commonwealth Heads of States to make the heir to the British throne, Prince Charles of Windsor, the next Head of the 53- member grouping. His mother, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, is the outgoing Head having succeeded to that post as far back as 1952 when most of the Commonwealth countries were colonies of the British crown.

The matter was placed on the agenda of the2018 Summit of Heads which ended in London last Friday. However even before a formal decision was taken, statements were made, by outgoing Chairman, Joseph Muscat of Malta, by some Caribbean leaders, and even by Queen Elizabeth herself, which gave the impression that the elevation of Prince Charles was a done deal. In a rare departure from established practice, Queen Elizabeth had publicly expressed the wish, when she opened the Conference at Buckingham palace, her home, that Charles would succeed her.

While her wish got the expected backing from the Heads, several questions have been raised in the media and among civil society personnel about the process and the timing. The retention of the British monarch came amidst concern about Britain’s treatment of nonwhite immigrants as evidenced by the “Windrush scandal.”

Many Caribbean-born citizens, who have been living in Britain for more than 40 years, face the threat of deportation from their “home” because of immigration laws which many have branded as “racist”. UK Prime Minister Theresa May and her Home Secretary have been forced to apologize publicly and to promise not to deport such persons.

But there is also a scandal about a public statement from Prince Charles, chosen to head a community of nations, of which more than three-quarters of the 2.4 billion population are non-white. A report in the International Business Times has accused him of racism on account of a statement he made to a British journalist of Asian descent.

The journalist, Anita Sethi, had been chatting with Prince Charles during the Commonwealth Youth Forum, one of the several meetings for Commonwealth groupings during the Heads meeting. According to the report, the new Commonwealth head had asked Anita where she is from, and after she replied “Manchester” (a British city), he is reported to have said that she does not look like if she is from that city.

Anita in turn, has questioned whether a person who assumes that a citizen of Manchester must be white, ought to be Head of a Commonwealth of nations of mostly non-white people. It has added to disquiet about the continued image of the Commonwealth.