As King Charles III is officially crowned at his coronation in Westminster Abbey with representation from Commonwealth leaders in attendance at the grand ceremony, another of his realms has strongly indicated that they will look to walk away from the monarchy and become a republic.
Belize are seriously considering removing the King as their head of state if comments from their PM are to be believed. The former British colony is currently one of 14 independent Caribbean nations that still retain the constitutional monarchy system, with a local governor-general performing duties on the King’s behalf.
The central American located country’s leader, John Briceño, hinted that it was “quite likely” that they would follow Barbados and become the next realm to take up republican status, unless Jamaica beat them to it; and admitted there was “no excitement” amongst his nationals for the King’s coronation.
Indifference towards King Charles III
Although geographically located in Central America, Belize with its population of 400,000 is a former British settlement and then colony, which remains one of eight realms in the Caribbean region.
There is a general apathy towards King Charles III from the country’s citizens, who did have a mild fondness of the late Queen Elizabeth II, who at least did find time to visit on two separate occasions during her reign, and of course her image still appears on the currency.
Referendum on the cards
Belize is actually the only Commonwealth realm which King Charles has never visited, something else that will no doubt not endear him to the residents, who it is strongly suspected would remove him as their head of state should, as is expected, a referendum be held some time soon.
In actual fact, Belize, remains the only Caribbean nation where the monarchy could be removed without the need for a public vote, it could be abolished via parliament.
Push for a Belizian leader
The scars of slavery are still evident in the country, with a simple plaque signifying the location of a holding dungeon for brutally treated enslaved labour, found in one converted building.
In November 2022 the elected centre-left government announced that a “people’s commission” would be reviewing the country’s constitution, which had been written back in 1981, at the time of its independence.
“It is time that the head of state, both ceremonial and legally, be Belize and Belizian,” was the strong message from Orson “OJ” Elrington, an attorney and member of the constitutional commission.
Reparations an on-going issue
This followed a resolution in parliament which called for the UK to pay reparations on behalf of the former slaves and their subsequent descendants.
Mr Briceño made the point: “The United Kingdom became great on the backs of the colonies and they do have a responsibility to have some form of reparations. They will never be able to pay back what was plundered and probably the millions of lives that were lost; but a public apology would be a start.”
Would remain a Commonwealth country
In the Belize capital city, Belmopan, Mr Briceño confirmed that were Belize to move away from the monarchy, the country would remain in the Commonwealth of Nations, just as Barbados did.
There is some anxiety at how departing from the crown could re-intensify an ongoing border dispute with neighbouring Guatemala, which has long laid claim to large chunks of territory in Belize, and there are no guarantees of British military assistance in the current constitution.
Queen Elizabeth II was well respected
Whilst Charles is the symbolic head of the 56-member Commonwealth states and made it very clear that he sees it as being something he wants to carry at the very heart of his reign, it is questionable whether he can command the same respect and devotion to the cause as his late mother had done for the previous 70 years.
Belize will probably top the list
Indeed, following Barbados’s lead in declaring themselves a republic, it is understood that seven of the eight remaining realm countries in the Caribbean have indicated they will seek to go down the same path, although individual governmental commitments vary significantly in each.
Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, together with St Vincent and the Grenadines all seem to be pushing towards such a motion, probably within the next two or three years. However, it looks like Belize could jump to the head of the list and be the next nation to go it alone.