A new republic is born: Barbados ditches Britain's Queen Elizabeth

WION Web Team
Bridgetown, Barbados Published: Nov 30, 2021, 09:59 AM(IST)

Some see the end of the queen's reign as a necessary step towards financial reparations for the historical consequences of the use of slaves brought from Africa for work on sugar plantations. Photograph:( Twitter )

Story highlights

In Barbados, the removal of Elizabeth II, who is still the queen of 15 other realms, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and Jamaica, is seen as a way to finally break free of the demons of its colonial past

The Caribbean island nation of Barbados severed its centuries-old ties to the British monarchy by displacing Queen Elizabeth II as head of state and declaring itself the world's newest republic.

Dame Sandra Mason was inaugurated as the first president at midnight (0400 GMT/0930 IST) with the Royal Standard flag representing the queen lowered in the capital Bridgetown.

Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, stood somberly as Queen Elizabeth's royal standard was lowered and the new Barbados declared, a step which republicans hope will spur discussion of similar proposals in other former British colonies that have Queen Elizabeth as their sovereign.

After a dazzling performance of Barbadian dance and music, which included speeches celebrating the end of colonialism, Barbadian singer Rihanna was named a national hero by Prime Minister Mia Mottley, leader of Barbados' republican movement.

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In Barbados, the removal of Elizabeth II, who is still the queen of 15 other realms, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and Jamaica, is seen as a way to finally break free of the demons of its colonial past.  

Watch | Barbados about to become the world's newest republic

The country will remain a member of the Commonwealth, a grouping of 54 nations across Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Europe. The new era has sparked debate over colonialism, Britain's centuries of influence and more than 200 years of slavery until 1834.

"I remember in the old days we would be really excited about the Queen and Prince Charles and Princess Diana and royal weddings," says Anastasia Smith, a 61-year-old nurse.

"But I don't know if we ever quite saw them as our royal family. Now, everybody is talking about a republic. I'm not sure that anything about my life is going to change. But I think we're doing the right thing and it's a proud moment for Barbados."

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Many Barbadians disagree that replacing the queen is the most pressing issue, citing the economic turmoil caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, which has exposed the country's overreliance on tourism -- which is, ironically, dependent on British tourists.

"I know it is something that we were going towards for a very long time, but I think it came at a time which is not necessarily the best time considering our economic situation and the Covid situation," said 27-year-old office manager Nikita Stuart.

The eerie calm in usually bustling Bridgetown, the lack of tourists at popular attractions, and the dead nightlife scene all point to a country struggling after years of relative prosperity.

Also read | Barbados establishes world's first metaverse embassy

The unemployment rate has jumped to nearly 16 per cent from nine per cent recently, and the country has just eased a longstanding curfew imposed by COVID-19, shifting it from 9:00 pm to midnight.

Some see the end of the queen's reign as a necessary step towards financial reparations for the historical consequences of the use of slaves brought from Africa for work on sugar plantations.

In many Barbadians' eyes, replacing the British monarch is merely a matter of catching up with how the nation has felt for decades.

(With inputs from agencies)

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