By Yvonne Baboolal
November 22, 2009 – guardian.co.tt
Remove Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 11 as symbolic Head of the Commonwealth at the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Port-of-Spain. This is the call coming from some students attached to the St Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies. Students from U We Speak, a student advocacy group, made the call during a powerful rendition of poetry and song last Wednesday night, one week before the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Port-of-Spain. A student crowd assembled at the Humanities Undercroft from 8 pm to support performances centered around the call for the removal of the Queen as Commonwealth Head.
They expressed support for St Vincent prime minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves’ November 25 referendum, which affords citizens the vote on a new constitution that would remove the Queen of England as that country’s Head of State and empower an indigenous president. “Her current position in the organisation is a powerful symbol that appends to our legacy of colonialism. Therefore, it is inimical to the Caribbean region and our children not to replace her,” said second year psychology student, Amilcar Sanatan, one of the organisers of the event. “For this reason, this issue must be immediately and adequately addressed by our leaders.”
Sanatan stressed that their call was not racist or based on hatred of Whites or the British. “We not telling the woman to go home. We must not confuse British imperialism with British people.” Neil Prout, a first year sports management student, pointed out that T&T, Guyana and Dominica are independent and are capable of running their own affairs. “We have come of age to handle our own thing.” A petition calling for the removal of the Queen as Commonwealth head was circulated at last Wednesday’s event for signatures. “We are going to send this to Prime Minister Patrick Manning,” Sanatan said. “Our leaders must form consensus in their decision to change the Queen as symbolic Head of the Commonwealth.”
Sanatan said colonialism dismantled the Caribbean people’s psyche and its harmful effects are still felt socially and economically. “One can argue that the Queen is 83 and it may appear irreverent to dismiss her position in the organisation now. “But it must be remembered that Queen Elizabeth (1) lived for 101 years.” Sanatan said last Wednesday’s event was in no way a protest against CHOGM. “It was a gathering of students who challenge backward societal norms and systems.” Posters of a frog wearing a crown and smoking a pipe, with the words, “Crapaud smoke all a we pipe,” were pasted on the pillars at the Undercroft last Wednesday.