(CNN) — The prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda said the Caribbean country will hold a referendum on whether to become a republic and remove King Charles III as the head of state within the next few years.
The former British colony gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1981 but is one of 14 countries in addition to the UK where the British monarch is head of state. It is also a part of the Commonwealth, a 56-member organization of mostly former British territories.
After confirming King Charles III as the King of Antigua and Barbuda on Saturday, Prime Minister Gaston Browne told ITV News that he planned on holding a referendum on whether the country becomes a republic in the next three years.
“This is a matter that has to be taken to a referendum for the people to decide,” he said, adding that it is not mean to “represent any form of disrespect to the monarch. This is not an act of hostility, or any difference between Antigua and Barbuda and the monarchy.”
He explained that it would be “a final step to complete the circle of independence to become a truly sovereign nation.”
Questions were raised in March about the monarchy’s continued role in the region after the then-Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, William and Catherine, visited three Commonwealth realms — Belize, Jamaica and the Bahamas — on a trip aimed at celebrating Queen Elizabeth’s 70 years on the throne.
The trip was beset with issues, where they were told by Jamaica’s prime minister that the country was “moving on” and will attain its “true ambition” to be “independent.”
Last year, Barbados severed its final imperial links to Britain by declaring itself a republic.
Barbados’s decision marked the first time in nearly three decades that a realm opted to remove the British monarch as head of state. The last nation to do so was the island of Mauritius in 1992. Like that country, Barbados has remained part of the Commonwealth.
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