Barbados becomes a republic, renouncing British queen

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Barbados

swears in its president as head of state as the Caribbean island distances itself from its colonial past.

’ first president Sandra Mason, stands after being sworn in at midnight [Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images via AFP]

has become a republic, removing the British monarchy as the country’s head of state and severing the Caribbean island’s last remaining colonial ties nearly 400 years after the first English ships arrived.

At the stroke of midnight, hundreds of people lined Chamberlain Bridge in the capital, Bridgetown, to celebrate the birth of the new republic. The national anthem of was played over a crowded Heroes Square, and a 21-gun salute was fired.

The heir to the British throne, Prince Charles, stood solemnly as the royal standard was lowered and the new was declared, a move that republicans hope will spark discussion of similar proposals in other former British colonies where Queen Elizabeth II still reigns.

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Sandra Mason was sworn in as ’ first president in the shadow of ’ parliament after a dazzling display of Barbadian dance and music, complete with speeches celebrating the end of colonialism.

Singer Rihanna attended the event marking ’ transition to a republic [Toby Melville/Pool via Reuters].

Mason was elected by the country’s House of Assembly and Senate in a joint session last month.

Winston Farrell, a Barbadian poet, told the ceremony, “Full stop this colonial page.” “Under the Union Jack, some have grown up stupid, lost in the castle of their skin.”

He explained, “It’s about us, rising out of the cane fields, reclaiming our history.” “Stop everything she’s saying and replace her with a Bajan.”

The removal of the British queen as ’ head of state, according to supporters of the transition, sends a powerful message.

“Tonight is the night!” exclaims the narrator. read the Daily Nation’s front-page headline in

Celebrations in the lead up to becoming a republic and severing ties with the British monarch [Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images via AFP]

 

“This is more of an emotional, historic, symbolic decision than a practical one,” said Lucia Newman, Al Jazeera’s Latin America Editor, who was in Bridgetown for the celebrations.

Last year, during the annual Throne Speech, local leaders announced the move to republicanism, which they described as the “next logical step toward full sovereignty.”

“The time has come to fully leave our colonial past behind,” Mason said, speaking on Mottley’s behalf as governor-general at the time. “The Barbadian people want a Barbadian president.”

Barbadians have been planning celebrations for their new republic in Bridgetown, with Prince Charles expected to deliver a speech emphasizing that the island’s warm relations with the United Kingdom will continue despite the constitutional change.

“I am content. “Without a king or queen from England, we’re on our own,” Nigel Mayers, 60, an orange vendor in the city centre, told the Reuters news agency. “After independence, this is the full drop.”

The UK’s Prince Charles speaks with President-elect Sandra Mason as he arrives in Bridgetown on November 28 [Toby Melville/Reuters]

 

will remain a Commonwealth republic, which consists of 54 countries from Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Europe.

However, Australia, Canada, Jamaica, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea will join the Commonwealth realms, bringing the total number of Commonwealth realms to 15, including Australia, Canada, Jamaica, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea.

Mauritius, an Indian Ocean island, was the last country to renounce the Crown in 1992.

Experts believe ’ decision will fuel republicanism in other Commonwealth countries, particularly in Jamaica, where the two main political parties support total independence from the monarchy.

’ decision, according to Joe Little, managing editor of London’s Majesty Magazine, was a “natural progression” of a trend that began with Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne in 1952.

“I think it will inevitably continue – and probably accelerate – not necessarily in this reign but in the next,” he told the AFP news agency.

, a small island with a population of nearly 300,000 people, gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1966.

“This has been a long process,” said Kevon Edey, an independent political analyst. “Even before independence, was aiming for full sovereignty.”

Since the 1620s, when British settlers turned it into a sugar colony reliant on the labour of thousands of enslaved Africans, the country has been under British control until 1834, when it was emancipated.

The UK has been called upon to compensate and other Caribbean islands for their brutal history.

Coast Guard remove The Queen’s Royal Standard flag at the Presidential Inauguration Ceremony at Heroes Square in Bridgetown as Barbados officially became a republic [Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images via AFP)

 

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected Barbados’ tourism-dependent economy, and some residents claim that this is more concerning than the looming constitutional change.

Laurie Callender, a 43-year-old information technology specialist, told Reuters that “everyone is more concerned with their dollar today and what that means for tomorrow, especially with prices of things going up.” “That, in my opinion, is what people are talking about more.”

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