The decision, announced last year, will be confirmed in a ceremony Monday evening – in the presence of the Prince of Wales – after which Barbados will install its own head of state. Dame Sandra Mason, who currently represents the Queen as Governor General of Barbados, will be sworn in for a four-year term as President.
The calendar is full of festive events, even with a commemorative “Republican Blend” rum released by the Bajan Mount Gay brand. But beyond the festivities, questions remain about what Barbados’ decision to remove the Queen as head of state – the first country to do so since Mauritius in 1992 – means for the future of the country. Isle.
Path to becoming a republic
Elizabeth II remained as head of the state of Barbados when the island declared independence in 1966 and visited five times, with Prince Harry also representing her on a trip in 2016. But the decision of becoming a republic has been talked about for decades.
In 1979, the Cox Commission was formed to examine the feasibility of transforming Barbados into a republic, but found that citizens wanted the current system to be maintained.
Prince of Wales arrives in Barbados to witness transition from British kingdom to republic
Then, in 1998, a constitutional review board recommended republican status, and in 2015 then Prime Minister Freundel Stuart said: “We need to move from a monarchical system to a republican form of government in very near future.
The island has also loosened its ties with Britain in other respects, such as changing its final court of appeal from the London-based Privy Council Judicial Committee to the Caribbean Court of Justice in Trinidad and Tobago. Tobago, in Port of Spain.
Academic Natalie J Walthurst-Jones has said that even after 55 years of independence, Barbados’ British ties run through many aspects of life on the island.
“There is a preponderance of British culture here,” she said. The independent. “The deification of British culture permeates Barbadian society as we are called ‘Little England’ and are seen that way by many, including other countries.
“We are seen as so British by our language, our education system, our systems of government and governance, the judiciary, common law and conventions, architecture, even symbols, namely roads, schools, institutions and hospital: Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
“They marked their presence on the island and reinforced that ‘the sun does not set on the British Empire’. Most of the symbols remain.
The announcement that Barbados planned to become a republic was featured in last year’s ‘Speech from the Throne’, written by Prime Minister Mia Mottley but read by the Governor General, who is the Queen’s official representative.
Insiders said Buckingham Palace was blinded by the announcement, with an official spokesperson at the time describing the move as “a business of the government and people of Barbados”.
Racism and reparations
Conversations about British involvement in Barbados remain tied to reparations for the UK’s role in the slave trade. Ms Walthurst-Jones, co-author of an academic report on racism in Barbados in the 21st century, said republic status alone would not change anything for the country’s black population, who had suffered from the legacy of slavery.
“Most blacks in Barbados will continue to be at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder,” she said.
“They have traditionally avoided entrepreneurial activity because of the inherent risk and lack of support. Therefore, the transformation of Barbados into a republic will not bring any significant change to the black population. “
The issue of reparations is also raised by politicians and on the streets of Bridgetown. Carl Padmore, a community worker, said The independent: “As a Barbadian, I think this is a natural step for the country to take; for me, we were always going to become a republic.
“Since independence we have more or less told the world – and Britain – that we are ready to forge our own course.
“I firmly believe that the extension to this whole question of republicanism must be the idea of reparations.
“We should have more scholarships from countries like England for Barbadians; more opportunities should be given. The slaves of Barbados built the British economy. Let’s look at renewable energies, sport, agriculture: this will liberate Barbadians even more.
Ms Mottley also called for financial reparations, recognition and an apology for the wrongdoing. She said last summer at a conference of Caribbean nation-state leaders – Caricom -: “For us, reparations are not just about money… but also about justice.
“I don’t know how we can go further without counting first of all. “
When and where this issue will be raised with the UK is another question – Barbadian opposition MP Edmund Hinkson even called for reparations to be discussed with Prince Charles during his visit.
Other people interviewed by The independent wanted this week’s announcement to act as a catalyst for further changes on the island.
At Needham’s Point, near Bridgetown, a grandmother, Alison, said: from the monarchy, like the royal police, prisons etc.
“I see it as a new birth for my country and I am proud of where we are from. “
The next steps
Beyond the new head of state, severing ties with Britain gives Barbados a chance to envision a future that it can shape entirely on its own.
At the official opening of Golden Square Freedom Park as part of the nation’s celebratory events, Ms Mottley told the audience: As they always have been.
“Whatever challenges we face, we will remain focused on achieving what we need as one of the smallest nations in the world – but one of the most capable nations in this global community. “
Politicians in the country’s parliament have shaped the political agenda with the new Barbados Charter, which, among other things, for the first time establishes the protection of a person’s sexual orientation as a fundamental right.
But others have expressed concerns about the lack of proper consultation on the implications of this decision. Paul Rock, President of the African Heritage Foundation (AHF), said The independent: “We are all for the republic; our main concern is that there was not enough public thinking and opinion in the process.
“We think it was very rushed, and there are some key issues that we’re not sure about, in terms of how things are going to play out.
“We have a saying here that refers to ‘buy a pig in a sack’ – it means you don’t know what you get, what you paid for. In a sense, we don’t know what’s going to happen.
As it makes its own way, Barbados will remain in the Commonwealth, as one of 54 nations that recognize the Queen as head of their association.
Robert Morris, famous historian, former politician and former Barbados Ambassador to Caricom, said The independent that this decision was “not a break with Great Britain”.
“Barbados has no difficulty with the Sovereign as Sovereign; in other words, there is no animosity towards the house of Windsor, ”he said.
“The problem is that Britain, as a former colonial master, would have had a relationship with us soured by the long history of slavery and, therefore, the idea is that once you come of age , you cannot keep this relationship.
“At the same time, we are very much aware that Britain has, in a sense, provided the format for our development – almost everything we have in Barbados relates to Britain in some way. of another. “
As Barbados takes an important step in leaving behind another side of colonialism, the words of many in Bridgetown and beyond echo the sentiment Ms Mottley expressed in last year’s Throne Speech, in which she heralded the path to a Republican state: “Barbados premier prime minister, The Rt Excellent Errol Walton Barrow, warned against loitering through colonial premises. This warning is as relevant today as it was in 1966.