Barbados cuts ties with the British monarchy, becoming the world’s newest republic.
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth no longer serves as the head of state to the Carribean island, Starting Tuesday The Islands first-ever president, Dame Sandra Mason takes over the Country and cutoff its last remaining colonial bonds nearly 400 years after the first Englishmen arrived at the island.
But the legacy of its brutal colonial past and the current pandemic’s impact on tourism pose challenges for the Caribbean island..
Dame Sandra Mason was sworn in as president by the chief justice and took the oath of allegiance to her people and country. Guests in the square applauded as Hundreds of people lining Chamberlain Bridge in the capital cheered and a 21-gun salute fired as the national anthem was played.
Mason in her inauguration speech as the first president of the country said, “Republic Barbados has set sail on her maiden voyage,” recognising the “complex, fractured and turbulent world” it would need to navigate, she added
“Our country must dream big dreams and fight to realise them,” the president told those gathered for the ceremony.
Ceremonies started on Monday evening and going into Tuesday included military parades and celebrations, as Ms. Mason was inaugurated as president, with heir to the British throne Prince Charles in attendance.
Barbadian singer Rihanna also attended the ceremony and was declared a national hero.
After the historic switch, Ms. Mason bestowed the country’s highest-ranking honor, the Order of Freedom, upon the Prince of Wales a significant move designed to highlight the continued close relationship between Barbados and the United Kingdom.
Prince Charles said he was “deeply touched” to have been asked to in the commemorations before reflecting on the protracted process the island nation has endured to become a republic.
He told the nations people that: “The creation of this Republic offers a new beginning, but it also marks a point on a continuum, a milestone on the long road you have not only traveled, but which you have built.”
“From the darkest days of our past, and the appalling atrocity of slavery, which forever stains our history, the people of this island forged their path with extraordinary fortitude. Emancipation, self-government and Independence were your way-points. Freedom, justice and self-determination have been your guides,” Prince Charles said.
“Your long journey has brought you to this moment, not as your destination, but as a vantage point from which to survey a new horizon,” he said.
The birth of the republic, 55 years to the day since Barbados declared independence, releases all the colonial bonds that have kept the island with a population of nearly 300,000 tied to England since 1625.
Mason was a former governor representative of the Queen of England and was elected last month by a joint session of the country’s House of Assembly and Senate.
“We the people must give Republic Barbados its spirit and its substance,” President Mason said. “We must shape its future. We are each other’s and our nation’s keepers. We the people are Barbados,” she added.
Barbadian leaders have mooted a republic since the run-up to independence in 1966, when the country’s first prime minister, Errol Barrow, told a British minister his nation would “not loiter on colonial property past closing time”.
Supporters of the transition have said that removing the British queen as Barbados’s head of state sends a powerful message.