Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves says he is opposed to the playing of the British National Anthem, “God Save the Queen” at functions in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
He told a press conference in Kingstown on Tuesday that he has and has repeatedly questioned the reason for it.
SVG, which attained independence from Britain in 1979, has Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state, represented by a governor general.
On Tuesday, Gonsalves was asked to explain his government’s decision to swear in the new governor general on Emancipation Day.
The event included the playing of God Save The Queen, which some persons considered as inappropriate, on Emancipation Day, in a country where the majority of the population are descendants of previously enslaved persons.
Gonsalves noted that when the swearing-in of the Governor General, Susan Dougan was done, the head of state went outside Government House to inspect a guard of honour.
“I have raised it before with the authorities, more than one cabinet secretary, the police force, if you go to when the police officers are being inducted, when the royal standard is raised, because it’s Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force, they play the anthem for Britain.
“I ask them all the time, ‘Why you all do that? Why don’t you — she is Queen of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, you play out national anthem alone.’ They say, ‘Well, it is part of the protocol, it is part of the convention, once her standard is raised’,” the prime minister said.
He said that in the case of the installation of the governor general, the SVG anthem was played when the flag of SVG was raised and the British Anthem was played when the governor general’s standard, with the crown on it, which is representing the queen, was raised.
“I asked the question all the time, ‘Why do we have to play the [British] anthem?’ not on Emancipation Day — at all… And that is a conversation, which I still want to continue to have.
“There are some people who will answer and say that the people voted for it. That’s not where I go,” the prime minister said, referring to the electorate’s rejection in a November 2009 referendum, proposed changes to the nation’s constitution.
“I don’t go there, though I know that happened. They voted for her as Queen of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, among other things, you understand what I mean, among other things, but I’ll tell you the reform constitution was among the following things: first of all, to complete the national democratic revolution in this country, one was the queen the other one with the Privy Council.”
He said former Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell who campaigned along with his New Democratic Party against the proposed constitution had a booklet only on keeping the queen and the Privy Council.
Gonsalves said there was also the issue of democratising the institutions and calling for the strengthening of certain fundamental rights and freedoms. There is not a single issue in the constitution where it is not far better — the reform constitution than the one we had.