How will Barbados continue when the Queen is removed from her position as head of state?

It is called “Little England”, but on a beach near BarbadosThe capital of the Caribbean Sea Bridgetown, the stark difference between the island nation and the UK. This week, the two nations will differ even further as Barbados removes the Queen as head of state, sets a new route as a republic and cuts ties with the British crown after hundreds of years. year.

The move, announced last year, will be confirmed at a ceremony on Monday night – attended by Prince of Wales – then Barbados will install its own head of state. Dame Sandra Mason, who is currently representing the Queen as governor-general of Barbados, will be sworn in to serve a four-year presidency.

The calendar is filled with celebratory events, including a commemorative rum “Republican Blend” released by Bajan’s 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 since Mauritius in 1992 – means for the future. hybrid of the island.

Queen Elizabeth II inspects an honor guard mounted by the Barbados Regiment upon her arrival in Bridgetown in 1977


Queen Elizabeth II receives Governor-General of Barbados Dame Sandra Mason in a private audience at Buckingham Palace in 2018


Journey to become a republic

Elizabeth II remained Barbados’ head of state when the island declared independence in 1966, and has visited five times, with Prince Harry also representing her on the 2016 tour, but the move becomes into a republic has been promoted for decades.

In 1979, the Cox Commission was established to examine the feasibility of Barbados becoming a republic, but concluded that the citizens wanted the current system to remain.

Then, in 1998, a constitutional review committee recommended republican status, and in 2015 then prime minister Freundel Stuart said: “We must move from monarchy to form of government. republic in the very near future.”

An honor guard welcomes HM Queen Elizabeth & HRH The Duke of Edinburgh to Barbados via Concorde


Queen Elizabeth II visits Queen’s College to lay the stone for a new building in Barbados in 1989


Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip at the Parliament of Barbados 1989


The island has also eased ties with Britain in other respects, such as changing the court of final appeal from the Judiciary Committee of the Pristine Council based in London to the Caribbean Court of Justice in Trinidad. and Tobago’s Port of Spain.

Scholar Natalie J Walthurst-Jones says that even after 55 years of independence, Barbados’ ties to Britain persist through many aspects of island life.

“There is a dominant British culture here,” she said The Independent. “The cult of British culture has become so pervasive in Barbadian society that we are called ‘Little England’ and are viewed that way by many people, including other countries.

Prince of Wales arrives in Barbados to witness the transition from Great Britain to the Republic

“We are considered British from the language, the education system, the system of government and administration, the judiciary, the common law and conventions, the architecture, to the symbols, specifically the children. roads, schools, institutions and hospitals: Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

“They stamped their presence on the island and reinforced that ‘the sun does not set on the British Empire’. Most of the icons are still there. ”

The announcement that Barbados intended to become a republic was made during last year’s “speech to the throne,” written by prime minister Mia Mottley but read by the governor-general, who is the Queen’s official representative.

Bridgetown celebrated as the island prepared to become a republic


Insiders said Buckingham Palace was blindsided by the announcement, with an official spokesman at the time describing the move as “a problem for the government and the people of Barbados”.

Racism and reparation

Conversations surrounding British involvement in Barbados still concern compensation for the UK’s role in the slave trade. Walthurst-Jones, co-author of an academic report on racism in Barbados in the 21st century, says republican status alone won’t change anything for the land’s blacks. countries, who suffered from the legacy of slavery.

“Most blacks in Barbados will continue at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder,” she said.

“They have traditionally stayed away from the business because of the inherent risks and lack of support. Therefore, Barbados becoming a republic would not bring about any significant change for the Negro”.

The issue of compensation is also being raised by politicians and on the streets of Bridgetown. Carl Padmore, a community worker, told The Independent: “As a Barbadian, I think this is a natural step forward for the country; for me we will always be a republic.

“From an independent point of view, we have more or less declared to the world – and to Britain – that we are prepared to chart our own path.

“I really believe that the extension to this whole problem of republicanism has to be the idea of ​​re-declaration.

“We should have more scholarships from countries like the UK for Barbadians; more opportunities should be given. Slaves in Barbados built the British economy. Look at renewables, sport, agriculture: this will free the people of Barbadian even more.”

The Legacy of Slavery: Bridgetown’s Statue of ‘Liberation’

(Public Domain)

Ms Mottley has also called for financial compensation, admitting and apologizing for wrongdoing. She told a conference of leaders of the Caribbean nation – Caricom – last summer: “For us, restitution is not simply about money … it is about justice.

“I don’t know how we can go any further unless there’s a calculation first.”

When and where this issue will be raised with the UK is another question – one Barbadia opposition MP, Edmund Hinkson, even called for compensation for Prince Charles during his visit.

Others are talking to The Independent would like this week’s announcement to act as a catalyst for further change on the island.

At Needham’s Point, near Bridgetown, a grandmother, Alison, said: “I’m looking forward to seeing how this transition unfolds – the whole rebranding, such as renaming the locations – by as there are many places that still bear the name of the monarchy, such as the Royal Police Force, prison, etc.

“I consider this a new birth for my country and I’m proud of where we stand.”

Next steps

In addition to the new head of state, the severing of ties with Britain gives Barbados a chance to see a future in which it can completely shape itself.

At the official opening of Golden Square Freedom Park as part of the country’s celebratory events, Ms. Mottley told the audience: “As we move into being a republic… I love you.” asks us to realize that the challenges may have changed but they are discouraging us as they have been.

“Regardless of the challenges that face us, we will remain focused on achieving what we must as one of the smallest countries in the world – but one of the largest. the most capable member of this global community.”

Politicians in the country’s parliament have shaped the political agenda with the new Barbados Charter, which, for the first time, makes protection of one’s sexual orientation a fundamental right.

But others have raised concerns that there has not been proper consultation about what the move will lead to. Paul Rock, president of the African Heritage Foundation (AHF), says The Independent: “We are all for the republic; Our main concern is not enough thought and public opinion in this process.

“We think it’s very rushed and there are key issues that we’re not sure about, about how things are going to turn out.

“We have a saying here that says ‘buy a pig in a pocket’ – this means you don’t know what you’re getting, what you’re paying for. In a way, we didn’t know what was going to happen.”

As it plots its own course, Barbados will remain within the commonwealth, one of 54 countries that recognize the Queen as head of their association.

Robert Morris, a prominent historian, former politician and former Barbados ambassador to Caricom, told The Independent that the move “is not a break with Britain”.

“Barbados has no trouble with the monarch as a sovereign state; in other words, no hatred towards the house of Windsor,” he said.

“The point is that Britain, as our former colonial master, will have a relationship with us, which has been marred by a long history of slavery and so the idea is a when you reach adulthood, you can’t maintain that relationship.

“At the same time, we are very aware of the fact that England has, in a sense, provided the format for our development – ​​almost everything that we have in Barbados is related to England. in one way or another.”

As Barbados takes a major step to leave behind another side of colonialism, the words of many in Bridgetown and beyond echo the sentiments of Mrs. Mottley in her coronation speech last year, in which she announced the path to a republic: “Barbados’ first prime minister Errol Walton Barrow, The Rt Excellent, warns against wandering the colonial premises. That warning is as relevant today as it was in 1966.” How will Barbados continue when the Queen is removed from her position as head of state?

Tom Vazquez

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