IS IT TIME?: Royal visit rekindles debate over The Bahamas’ shift to a republic

IS IT TIME?: Royal visit rekindles debate over The Bahamas’ shift to a republic
The Bahamas' colonial flag and badge.

Former Health Minister Wells says The Bahamas ready for the big move

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Support for the country’s shift to a republic remains mixed, with one former minister insisting on the country’s readiness while another former representative called it “dead talk”.

The Caribbean tour by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in celebration of Queen Elizabeth’s platinum jubilee, has sparked debate over breaking ties with the monarch as Jamaica signaled their own intention to “move on” during the royal couple’s stopover in the country. 

Former Minister of Health Renward Wells, who has previously expressed his support to remove “all of those trappings”, told Eyewitness News that he believes The Bahamas is ready to remove the queen as its titular head and move to become a republic.”

“I see no reason why at this stage in our national development that we should not be moving the direction of having a president of The Bahamas who is a Bahamian, who the Bahamians can look to,” he said.

“The Bahamas is more than ready to move in that direction.”

Meanwhile, former Progressive Liberal Party (MP) Leslie Miller said he does not believe the shift will happen in his lifetime, calling it “dead talk”. 

“The avenge Bahamian who thinks about a republic are those who can get press, thinks about Haiti and those other third world countries not realizing that America is a republic and most of the countries around the world are republican but it’s not going to happen in our country in the next 50 years…It ain’t ga’ happen,” Miller said. 

He insisted that “we ain’t got the guts to do it” and a referendum on the matter would fail because Bahamians are “ignorant toward what is a democracy, what is a true democracy”.

Asked about the Crown’s utterances of support of Caribbean countries moving on from Great Britain, Miller said “It’s not their fault. It’s our fault.”

“We like what we have,” he said.

“…Like the Rastafarians say like the rest of them, they’d be the first one to take a damn ticket and come here (Governor General’s Ball) to have a good time. 

“They complain about it but they ain’t ga do nothing towards it.”


For his part, Wells doubled down on his longtime held position insisting that it is the next step in the ‘life of nations’.

He noted that he has always had a major issue in swearing allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen, her heirs, and successors, which is required when working in the public service as an employee or parliamentarian.

“If I swear any allegiance it should be to the constitution and the Bahamian people”.

Both in 2012 and 2017, Wells did not swear allegiance but affirmed the charge when being sworn into office.

“You’re never truly independent until you become a republic,” Wells added.

He further noted that the work done under the former administration during Hurricane Dorian and the COVID-19 pandemic shows The Bahamas has the capacity to “go it on our own in the international sphere and to deal with our issues”.

Miller however disagreed in the recent interview over the country’s readiness, once again insisting that Bahamian people will not act on the matter.

“With the advent of COVID, the average Bahamians’ concern is really about just living every day hustling from day to day, nobody even has that on their radar,” he said.

“I’m not concerned with the muck mucks who in here tonight, they constitute about 30 percent of the population, my concern as the potcake is about the majority and that’s the 70 percent that are the average every day Bahamian that has no inkling of what we’re talking about, no inkling at all.

“You can talk about it as much as you like, but when you press the button, they ain’t gonna pull.

Rastafarian Priest Rithmond McKinney also said he believes the Bahamian people are ready; however, he underscored the need for strong political will.

Two previous Constitutional Commissions have made recommendations regarding the retention of the Queen of England as the Bahamas’ Head of State, with both commissions reporting mixed feelings from the public.

Last week, Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell said the issue does not incite excitement with Bahamians and there seems to be no interest in the shift.  

Deputy Prime Minister Chester Cooper opted not to comment on the matter over the weekend during the royal visit.

Ahead of the royal couple’s arrival, Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis suggested that The Bahamas may need to discontinue the Queen’s honors.

Davis told Parliament the honors were inherited as a part of the nation’s history; however, that “historical weight that infects and influences the mind and goes to our ethos may be required to be shed”.

About Sloan Smith

Sloan Smith is a senior digital reporter at Eyewitness News, covering a diverse range of beats, from politics and crime to environment and human interest. In 2018, Sloan received a nomination for the “Leslie Higgs Feature Writer of The Year Award” from The Bahamas Press Club for her work with Eyewitness News.