A change in the Oaths by Officials Act in St. Vincent and the Grenadines will see officials now swearing allegiance and service to their rather than their ceremonial head of state, Queen Elizabeth 11, her heirs and successor.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves presented the bill in Parliament this week.
He told lawmakers that from time immemorial, the Oath of Allegiance and the oath for the execution of office has been sworn, in accordance with the existing law, to Her Majesty, her heirs and successor.
“Mr. Speaker, although Her Majesty is the head of state, it doesn’t necessarily follow that you have to swear the allegiance to her,” Gonsalves said.
“There is no constitutional provision to that effect in our Constitution. Parliament has made the law and Parliament can change the Oaths by Officials Act.”
Gonsalves cited Jamaica as an example of a country which has Her Majesty as “our sovereign lady” but do not swear allegiance or oath of execution of office to her.
“What this bill simply does is to replace the Oath of Allegiance which I have read before, with this one: “I [insert name] do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, that I will uphold and defend the Constitution and laws of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and I will conscientiously and impartially discharge my responsibilities to the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. So help me God.”
The Oath for the execution of office would be: “I [insert name] do swear that I will well and truly serve the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the office of [insert office name] so help me God.”
Gonsalves said the change in the law in no way implies any respect to Her Majesty.
“What we simply do here is that we will be true and faithful and bear true allegiance to St. Vincent and the Grenadines as distinct to her majesty and her heirs and successors,” he said.
“This is what this is about. It is making the Oath more consistent with the sensibilities of the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, even though they may still wish to acknowledge Her Majesty, as they did in the referendum, as the queen of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
Vincentians in 2009 rejected proposed changes to the Constitution that, among other things, would have seen the Queen replaced by a ceremonial president.
In explaining the change, Gonsalves further said: “But, rather than swearing allegiance to an individual, we swear allegiance to St. Vincent and the Grenadines and to the Constitution and to discharge responsibilities impartially and in the execution of our office, rather than to well truly serve her majesty, that we well and truly serve the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
He said that he does not expect that in serving the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines “we will not be serving her majesty. But it is just what is where sense our primary obligation is, and that is what it is about. Simply and straight forward.”
The prime minister thanked Minister of Economic Planning, Camillo Gonsalves, who, he said, researched the subject and gave him and the Attorney General the benefit of his research.
“And after full discussion, we agreed that this is the way to go. And that is why we are here in the Parliament,” Gonsalves said.
When he was appointed a senator and Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2013, Camillo noted his objection to having to swear allegiance to Her Majesty.
In his contribution to the debate this week, Camillo said the Oaths Act is very near and dear to him.
He told lawmakers that he is exceedingly proud that the Parliament has an opportunity to discuss and pass an amendment that is “in one sense short, relatively simple.
“It is only a page and a half long and it changes a few words in a relatively obscure act, but, in another sense, it is a profound declaration of our national sovereignty, of our deepening political independence and our continued growth of our nation.
“It is an amendment, Mr. Speaker that is not a rejection of anything or anyone, but rather an affirmation of our faith in God, of our faith in the Constitution of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, of faith in ourselves and of the fact that our primary obligation as representatives in this Honourable House, is to the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Camillo said.